With a growing awareness and mounting pressure for the agricultural sector to address the numerous environmental challenges facing our planet, the industry has embarked on a journey towards enhancing its environmental sustainability. In South Africa, producers, packhouses, and processing facilities now have the opportunity to gradually progress towards environmental sustainability by collaborating with SIZA once again.
In line with SIZA’s long-term vision of integrating environmental stewardship into its sustainability framework, SIZA has partnered with WWF-SA and stakeholders from the value chain to develop an Environmental Standard and the necessary tools to support the improvement of environmental indicators and management.
The SIZA standard is a comprehensive and integrated environmental framework that assists South African suppliers in assessing and evaluating risks, enabling them to align with sustainable market requirements. The SIZA Environmental Assurance model, consisting out of several steps, has been specifically designed to help growers evaluate their compliance and environmental risks, both at farm level and within the broader regional/catchment context. This process started by completing a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), the results of which contribute to a risk profile report. This report can be utilized to meet market requirements and inform the development of site-specific improvement plans, farm environmental management plans, and monitoring systems. The self-assessment questionnaire covers a range of topics, from minimum legal requirements to leading practices, across four main areas:
- Energy, materials & waste
- Farm ecosystems & biodiversity
The Environmental SAQ is complemented by a third-party audit approach supported by a rigorous audit methodology and audit oversight programme. The purpose of this audit is to assess compliance with the SIZA Environmental Standard, identify non-compliant areas that require corrective actions and improvement, and ensure the implementation of evidence-based practices. Accredited and independent audit companies conduct these third-party environmental audits, ensuring objectivity, credibility, and transparency within the programme.
The Audit Process:
As most markets demand third-party certification from their suppliers, SIZA members can opt for a third-party SIZA Environmental audit with an independent Audit Firm recognized by SIZA. The current list of recognized firms includes Control Union, BSI Group, NSF Africa, and SGS. This third-party approach ensures the credibility and objectivity of the audit outcomes. Once a third-party SIZA Environmental audit has been successfully completed and any non-conformities have been rectified and closed, the SIZA Environmental member will receive an Audit Completion Letter (certificate). The validity period of the Audit Completion Letter depends on the risk rating achieved from the audit, as determined by the SIZA Environmental Audit Frequency Matrix. This validity period can range from a Platinum risk category (3-year audit validity) to a Bronze risk category (1-year audit validity). If a buyer requires an annual audit, their requirement will take precedence over the SIZA Environmental Audit Frequency Matrix. The audit outcome and data are visibile on the MySIZA Platform where buyers have traceability and visibility to assess their risks.
Preparing for the 3rd party audit:
In preparation for the third-party environmental audit, SIZA offers the second-party, SIZA CARES programme. As part of this capacity-building programme, SIZA Environmental members can voluntarily participate in the SIZA CARES programme. The programme, which is supported by SIZA Environmental membership and provided free of charge, allows suppliers to assess themselves in advance of the third-party audit. During this process, they gain access to information, advice, and support from SIZA’s own environmental specialists, enabling them to make the necessary corrections in their journey towards sustainable farming.
Through its partnership with SIZA, the South African agricultural industry can confidently embark on its environmental sustainability journey, knowing that support is available at every step along the way. Buyers can sit back because similar to the ethical audit SIZA will ensure that risks are for everyone in this process as low as possible.