In a world where accountability and ethical practices are gaining priority, it is heartening to witness producers not merely settling for the status quo. The spotlight is on those who are not content with minimum compliance but are embracing a proactive approach, championing a best practice mindset. More producers in South Africa are driven by an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, acknowledging that audits are not mere obligations but valuable tools to refine and elevate their operations. SIZA publishes Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Reports, showcasing growth and improvements each quarter. Click here to view the latest M&E reports for more statistics.
It’s not about the finding, but about the corrective action and improvement
When we look at the number of audits from April 2023 until the end of August 2023, a total of 317 social (ethical) audits and a total of 33 environmental audits were conducted. This is a total of 350 third-party audits that were conducted at 350 SIZA-registered member sites over the last several months.
Out of these audits, a total of 2 938 findings were raised. This comprised of 2 866 findings raised during social/ethical audits, and 72 findings raised during environmental audits. The positive news from this is that 2 131 of these findings have been resolved in full, meaning that producers implemented adequate corrective actions to resolve the finding.
Best Practices around every corner!
Conducting audits on farms, pack houses, processing facilities, and workplaces in general has provided objective measurement to benchmark progress. Yet, auditing is not the only solution. To support SIZA’s requirements and drive to ensure businesses’ commitment toward their community, the Best Practice online programme was implemented by SIZA in 2018, gives producers the opportunity to showcase areas where they feel they have reached more than compliance, engage in their community, create value, and sustain practices beyond the audit process. To date, 326 practices have been listed by producers and approved as going above and beyond minimum compliance.
The drive toward continuous improvement has been noticed with significant growth in the submission of community engagement efforts and best practices as part of this online initiative. Producers’ drive toward community engagement and having a positive impact on their neighbouring community, town, and area has been of great value. Some of the practices noted on farms and packhouses are:
- School support provided by producers to employees’ children, sometimes also including on-farm schools and educational facilities.
- After care facilities and development programmes.
- Clinics and healthcare facilities onsite.
- Community health roadshows and educational days.
- Facilities made available for women and men from nearby communities to engage in crafts and art and contribute to producing products that in turn support their families.
- Pension funds and contributions to retirement annuities.
- Sport facilities and encouragement (proves very popular with teens and families on farms).
- Housing benefits (free housing on farm, employer provides/buys accommodation at nearby town for employee/family etc.).
- Clearing of invasive alien plants beyond the farm border.
- Eco-energy implementation on farms and processing facilities, removing reliance on electricity from the grid.
- Carbon neutrality by balancing practices to put back oxygen into the atmosphere.
- Awareness-raising initiatives on becoming more aware of environmental conservation and sustainability as a whole.
These practices are merely a highlight of some of the admirable practices offered by producers across South Africa. The importance of ensuring there is engagement with local communities is an embedded culture within South African agriculture that has survived over many decades and seems to increase with time.
SAQs – improvement over time
Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQs) indicate growth and improvement year on year, as producers are required to complete their SAQs annually. The purpose of the SAQ is to substantiate longer audit validity periods by ensuring markets that practices remain in place between third-party audits, but the SAQ also assists producers in maintaining their practices and benchmarking themselves against keeping all compliance-related practices in place every year. With excellent scores, some producers have achieved 99% for their SAQ — a testament to continuous improvement over time. SIZA administrative staff assist new members with low scores to improve their scores every year before approval.
Digital Recordkeeping — One Year Later:
SIZA has recognised producers’ need for a cost-effective and streamlined recordkeeping programme and has incorporated a digital recordkeeping functionality as part of the well-established MySIZA platform. The SIZA Digital Recordkeeping Programme was officially launched in September 2022 to all SIZA members as well as producers and packing/processing facilities that are not SIZA Social or Environmental members.
Over the last 12 months, over 300 sites have registered for this programme, 56 of which have already completed one full year of data capturing. Thirty-four of these sites have also requested a Carbon Footprint Calculation to be done using the data entered into the SIZA Digital Recordkeeping Programme.