We’re often asked by sourcing professionals why the UTZ label isn’t available for a wider range of products. You may have wondered yourself. Some certification schemes cover many different crops, while UTZ focuses on four – coffee, cocoa, tea and hazelnuts. So we asked Daan de Vries our Innovation & Technology director, why only four crops? And why these four? Here’s what we found out.

Maximum focus for maximum impact

HÕ Dloe Nie and YÕ Nham Mlo, coffee farmers, Coffee Climate Care project, Vietnam. Photographer Kadir van Lohuizen / NOORDaan explains that UTZ’s approach is all about maximizing impact and that that’s best achieved by focusing on specific sectors.

“To create the change we want, we work very closely with many different people and organizations”, Daan says. “Each sector is a world in itself so we have to tailor our approach and build new networks each time. By focusing on particular crops and addressing their specific challenges we can create significant impact across a whole sector.”

So why these four crops?

Heritage, experience, opportunity and need have all played a role in leading UTZ to focus on coffee, tea, cocoa and hazelnuts. The UTZ program started with coffee – the sector faced many social and environmental challenges but there was no certification scheme available for large farms at the time. That inspired our founders, a coffee farmer and a roaster, to take action.

Daan explains how UTZ grew from there. “Coffee is our heritage. Cocoa and tea fit the same profile as Tea_Kenya_selectingleafscoffee – they are tree crops, grown in the tropics, with similar sustainability challenges. We were able to take what we’d learnt with coffee and apply many of the lessons to our work with cocoa and tea. New learnings from these are also applied back to coffee. Hazelnuts were a logical extension to cocoa – the sector shares similar social and agro-economic challenges and hazelnuts are widely used in chocolate products.”

Interest from buyers, retailers and civil society is also important, says Daan. “With cocoa we had some of the big global players as founding partners. There was good momentum and traction to get the program going. This is really key to achieving scale. If you start with just one company, then others may be put off because they see it as someone else’s program.”

Certification – one piece of the jigsaw

Daan also gave us an insight into the partnerships and projects taking UTZ and its partners beyond certification, such as the Sector Partnerships Program, supported by the Dutch government. This is helping farmers and civil society organizations in producing countries work with companies and governments on sector specific challenges.

Certification is much more than a label and UTZ is about more than certification. Certification is one tool we use but to try to transform a sector we need to employ a whole range of techniques.

“Certification is much more than a label and UTZ is about more than certification. Certification is one Cocoa_Ghana_dryingbeanstool we use – and we continuously innovate in this area  – but to try to transform a sector we need to employ a whole range of techniques. That’s why we’re also investing in customized programs with large companies, engaging buyers in emerging markets on sustainability, and developing our Sector Partnerships program to create a dialogue on sustainability at the local level”.

Will UTZ stick to four crops?

So does UTZ have its hands full or will it expand to cover more crops? We asked Daan what the future holds.

We’re open to covering more crops in the future, but for now our main focus is on our current sectors where we’re looking to achieve the biggest possible impact.

“We’re open to covering more crops in the future, especially if there is a group of companies with Male farmer picking hazelnuts from the tree during harvest in Turkeyglobalbuying power who want to work with us. For example, UTZ is doing exploratory work in the rice sector and we’re also developing an approach for vanilla in partnership with the Union for Ethical Biotrade. But for now, our main focus is on our current sectors where we’re looking to achieve the biggest possible impact. With certification and beyond.”

Get involved

Would you like to be part of our journey towards achieving a sustainable coffee, cocoa, tea or hazelnut sector? Join our program today! Or if you interested to know more about our exploratory work with rice and vanilla, contact us at marketing@utz.org.