Updated on June 6, 2019

Understanding all of the processes that go into certification can seem like an overwhelming task. With so many different people and actions coming together, learning all the moving parts may be tricky. So that’s where we come in. Today, we walk you through the UTZ certification flow. By the time you’re done, you’ll understand who the players are, what they do and how we achieve traceability throughout the supply chain. Why bother? Because knowing how it all works helps you understanding the true value of the UTZ label.

Setting the standards

It all starts with the standards. We as an organization set the standards for the sustainable production of cocoa, coffee and tea throughout the supply chain — from farmer to manufacturer. The rules for the growing and harvesting process for farmers and farmer groups are laid out in the UTZ Code of Conduct. In order to get certified, farmers and farmer groups have to comply with the rules in the Code.

Requirements are divided into four categories:

  • Farm management: This ensures, among other things, that farmers are trained in UTZ procedures and keep detailed records of their products.
  • Good agricultural practices: This is where good farming practices are outlined, like reducing the use of pesticides and ensuring the soil remains fertile.
  • Social requirements: This includes for example creating safe working conditions and making sure that no child labor is used in production.
  • Environmental requirements: A wide variety of environmental practices are enforced such as efficient use of water and energy and protection of natural habitats.

Training the trainer

Capacity builders train farmers on sustainable practisesTo ensure these standards are upheld, we use the ‘training the trainer’ principle. This means that we work with NGOs, agronomists, large traders and other independent organizations in coffee, cocoa and tea producing countries. We train these capacity builders on how to train the farms and farmer groups to implement the rules in the Code of Conduct.

Doing our due diligence

Once farmers and farmer groups have been trained, we follow-up and ensure that they are meeting our standards through independent audits. These audits are completed by over 50 independent certification bodies worldwide each year. Auditing companies are trained by us to ensure they understand the UTZ standards inside and out and know exactly how to check that the rules are followed at the farms. Only when farmers and farmer groups have met the requirements can they then sell their products as UTZ certified and negotiate a premium price with their buyer.

Certification doesn’t end with the farmer

Farmers and supply chain actors manage their transactions in the Good Inside PortalWhen goods have left the farm, that doesn’t mean they have left the UTZ system. The traceability of UTZ certified commodities start when farmers register their sales in the UTZ traceability systems, MultiTrace for coffee and hazelnuts and the Good Inside Portal for cocoa and tea. And it continues with the supply chain actors. Actors in the supply chain must adhere to the UTZ Chain of Custody. This document outlines how UTZ certified cocoa, coffee or tea should be managed and tracked throughout the supply chain and is a key element to ensuring traceability.

The Chain of Custody is what verifies that UTZ certified commodities are kept separate from the non-certified and allows us to know exactly from where the cocoa, coffee or tea originates. It does this by setting requirements for physical and/or administrative traceability and by requiring supply chain actors to manage all transactions that take place within our traceability system. This way we can track how an UTZ certified product travels along its journey from farm to shelf.

Checking up on the Chain of Custody

Certification Bodies audit farmers and supply chain actors against the UTZ standardsJust like the UTZ Code of Conduct, independent certification bodies audit supply chain actors against the UTZ Chain of Custody. This occurs every one to three years, depending on how well they perform. But not all supply chain actors get audited. Only supply chain actors who modify the products, and therefore have a risk of mixing certified commodities with non-certified, must be audited. Companies that do not modify the products, like retailers who simply sell end products to consumers, don’t need to receive an audit.

Bringing it all together

With this combination of clear standards, effective training, a strict audit system and traceability from farm to shelf, we are able to create a credible program that serves our mission of making sustainable farming the norm and creating a better life for all.

Want some support in explaining the UTZ certification flow to your customers or colleagues? Use our infographic. Still have questions? Simply send us an email.