Empowering Compliance:  SIZA’s Journey to Sustainable Agriculture in South Africa

Since SIZA was formalised in 2016 as a free-standing membership-based NPC, we have seen exponential growth within SIZA and our primary members’ journey to compliance. Within eight years, SIZA has made significant contributions towards the ethical and sustainable agricultural sector, with the Social (Ethical) and Environmental Standards being benchmarked against various global standards and reaching equivalence with more than 340 businesses worldwide, positioning South African agriculture as a credible global leader in supplying to global markets.

In 2016, there were only 1 295 active SIZA members (which includes producers, packhouses, exporters, importers, and global retailers). Today, in 2024, SIZA’s membership has grown by 218%, to a total of 4 125 total members. Along with this growth in membership, we have seen a significant expansion in various types of commodities joining the programme, culminating in more than 100 different commodities represented in SIZA.

Global Market Engagement and SIZA Acceptance Across Markets

SIZA has positioned itself to be the preferred standard for suppliers from South Africa. It is in line with the SIZA vision to avoid audit duplication where possible and to save time and cost, whilst still being able to identify areas of risk in the industry and work towards the goal of continuous improvement. SIZA’s acceptance has also grown in terms of businesses and industries that accept SIZA audits and recognise primary members’ ethical and environmental performance against the SIZA Standards. Current acceptance is through Exporters, Importers, Retailers, Manufacturing/Processing Facilities, Storage/Distribution Facilities, and Wholesalers. SIZA will continue to monitor the market growth and continuously engage with new markets for further acceptance. Since 2016, buyer recognition grew from 58 buyers to 345 buyers which indicates a growth of 495%  in terms of market acceptance globally.

Improvement noted during third-party audits

The SIZA programme has been designed as a proactive approach to encourage corrective actions. The auditor and the producer on the audit day, agree upon a deadline by which corrective actions should be implemented. From 1 January 2016 until 31 December 2023, a total of 36 577 findings were raised during third-party audits, and 35 083 of these findings have already successfully been closed out and received improvements in practices. Therefore, 96% of all findings have been adequately resolved since 2016 by SIZA members. That is what we call continuous improvement! Well done to our SIZA members.

Producers continue to impress with Platinum statuses

While the number of findings increases with each period due to an increase in audits and more comprehensive auditor calibration efforts, the majority of producers still achieve a Platinum risk rating, which provides for a three-year audit validity period. When comparing the Platinum risk ratings over the last three years, one can note a 25% growth in the number of Platinum risk ratings achieved. Between January and December 2020, a total of 353 producers achieved a Platinum risk rating, whilst in the same period in 2023, 441 producers achieved a Platinum risk rating. Similarly, if one does a comparison over the last three years on the total number of producers achieving Platinum, it is clear that the number of producers is increasing. From 2020 to 2023, the average number of audits achieving Platinum risk ratings was 56%, indicating that there is a consistent drive and effort from South African producers in the export industry toward continuous improvement and best practices.

Ensuring role players and stakeholders stay up-to-date

Additionally, in the last four years, SIZA has reached approximately 10 000 producers, agri workers, buyers, etc. through training programmes in person and online.

As SIZA reflects on its journey from 2016 and its development over the last eight years, it remains committed to its founding principles, a cost-effective approach, avoiding duplication, driving continuous improvement, remedy, and sustainable practices across the agricultural landscape.