2017 marks the 15 year anniversary of UTZ, which we celebrated on 10 October together with over 400 of our closest friends, employees, business partners and farmers.

HandeGroot_UTZ15_WardandNick.From a fledgling coffee sustainability program, inspired by two men with one vision, UTZ has become the largest certification program for coffee and cocoa in the world, and has significant programs in tea, rooibos, and hazelnuts.

Over 1.2 million farmers and workers work on UTZ farms in 41 countries, covering 2.7 million hectares of land. In 2016, companies sourced enough to make 15 billion bars of chocolate and 38 billion cups of coffee. And that gives us more than enough reasons to celebrate!

Click here to view our celebration video:

We have come a long way

Now we are at an important juncture: our legacy is clear and the next chapter is waiting to be written.

We have come a long way, but this is just the beginning. Too many farmers still struggle to earn a living, and climate change, low wages and gender inequality are still huge issues we are far from solving.

UTZ 15 years event theatre
So during our celebration event on 10 October we took the opportunity of having our stakeholders together to discuss some of these topics and gain insight and input on the future of our program from the very people who helped to shape it in the first place.

Three topics: living income, sustainability in a business UTZ 15 years event - round table discussionscontext, and innovating certification in a changing world, were briefly introduced by speakers ranging from the first UTZ Colombian coffee farmer to our own experts and industry and civil society leaders. This gave way to lively round table discussions and the exchange of ideas as well as honest and open feedback, both for UTZ and companies: Has certification really done enough? Is there a risk that our progress also makes us complacent? What’s next for businesses?

We expect our producers to continuously improve UTZ 15 years event - Britta Wyss Bisangand therefore we as UTZ and our business partners must do the same, seeking innovative ways to move forward.

Ambition, pragmatism and connection

It’s not easy to summarize 15 years of hard work, but the essence is captured in the positive reflections of our stakeholders after the event:

“The event showed what UTZ is really about: great ambition, but at the same time bringing pragmatism and a call to action.” (Angela Tejada, MARS)

UTZ 15 years event - Sebastian Sieben“My main takeaway is that there are actually a lot of people out there who want to improve things. That’s a great message, whether it’s on environmental subjects or social issues. That’s my main takeaway: there’s hope.” (Sebastian Sieben, Martin Bauer)

“We are all connected.  Even though we come from different backgrounds, different producing regions and products, there is something essential that is connecting us on a deeper level. And that is what we are striving for as a sustainability community. Feeling that sense of connection across the board is what I am taking away from today.” (Madelé Mouton, Mouton Citrus, South Africa)

“We are on the right path. We haven’t arrived yet, we probably never will. It’s an endless process. But it’s a process in which more people are on board and it’s the right way to go.” (Juan Pablo Echeverri, Hacienda Venezia, Colombia)

Also, read UTZ Executive Director Han de Groot’s personal reflections on 15 years of UTZ  and watch an impression of the event:

UTZ is a driver for change

So what is next? As we move forward towards our intended merger with the Rainforest Alliance, we stay true to our vision of making sustainability the norm. As  Han de Groot from UTZ said, “we want farmers to become ‘farmers by choice’, not ‘by default’,” and we can only do that if we continue to work in collaboration.

So with that we encourage all our business partners and stakeholders to remain committed, join the debate and stay with us on this journey. Let’s see where the next 15 years takes us.