About the FSS

Implement human rights due diligence in agricultural production with the FSS — from risk analysis to reporting

Why Hunger and the Right to Food Matter

The FAO Hunger Map depicts the prevalence of undernourishment in the population of each country in 2020–22. Click here to see the full report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”. Please note: The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on these map(s) do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FSS concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries.

As long as there is hunger in supply chains: 

  • Problems such as child and forced labor will also continue to exist
  • Producers cannot invest in sustainability and technology
  • The potential for economic growth is not fully utilized
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not achieved
  • Supply chains cannot be resilient and sustainable

Food security is a fundamental human right, yet hunger and malnutrition persist in many countries of the Global South. Currently, around 735 million people suffer from hunger and over 2 billion are malnourished. At the same time, many countries affected by hunger produce agricultural products for world markets, where basic human and labor rights are often not respected.

Human rights must always be considered in conjunction with each other. For example, violating the right to food may indicate that other rights are also not being respected or fulfilled.

“The human right to food can, as a matter of principle, not be ensured unless the protection of other human rights and compliance with environmental obligations are ensured.”

Legal Benchmark, GvW Graf von Westphalen

Why We Need the FSS?

Whether it is avocados, tropical fruits, palm oil, coffee or rubber, consumers are often unaware of the living and working conditions of the people who produce these raw materials: Their incomes are often insufficient for a decent standard of living, they have limited access to clean drinking water or medical care and might suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Consumers are increasingly demanding transparency on human rights compliance in supply chains, and governments are enacting legislation to ensure social and environmental sustainability.  

The FSS is a field-tested solution for implementing due diligence and managing human rights risks in agricultural production. By implementing the FSS, actors in the supply chain can demonstrate their due diligence. For workers, smallholders and surrounding communities in producing countries, this improves working and living conditions and strengthens market opportunities.

Development of the FSS

The FSS was developed in 2017 as a joint project of the Center for Development Research (University of Bonn, Germany) with Welthungerhilfe (Bonn, Germany) and WWF (Berlin, Germany), and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BMEL) via “Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe” (FNR).

During this phase, the FSS criteria, indicators and associated tools were successfully tested in collaboration with local producers and international certification schemes (ISCC, RSPO, CmiA, UTZ/Rainforest Alliance) through pilot audits in food insecure regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Today, Welthungerhilfe and Meo Carbon Solutions jointly implement the FSS.

If you would like to learn more about our FSS pilot audits, please visit our Download section where you will find detailed reports and a summary of findings (factsheets).

The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on these map(s) do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FSS concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries. 

How the FSS Works

The FSS is based on the human right to food and the associated voluntary guidelines of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  It contributes to the achievement of a wide range of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through its systemic approach, the FSS  tracks human rights requirements in agricultural production. With its measurable and practical criteria, it offers companies a toolbox for complying with and fulfilling human rights due diligence obligations. The FSS can be implemented in two ways:


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  • FSS certification: Can be integrated into any existing sustainability certification scheme to verify compliance with the human right to food and other human rights due diligence obligations at the production level. Proof of compliance with the FSS criteria is provided as part of the main standard’s audit.
  • FOSSEM (Food Security Sensitive Management): A two-step approach to continuous improvement based on the FSS criteria that should gradually lead to full FSS compliance — even in higher-risk production regions. It offers a low-threshold and cost-effective entry point for companies to meet the Duty of Effort on Human Rights Due Diligence requirements from the German Supply Chain Act.

The Four Pillars of Food Security


There is a reliable and consistent source of quality food.


People have sufficient resources to produce and/or purchase food.


People’s ability to access and utilize food that remains stable and sustained over ti


Knowledge and basic sanitary conditions to choose, prepare and distribute food.

FSS Principles and Criteria

The FSS principles, criteria and indicators are based on the human right to adequate food.

They do not go beyond the human rights requirements and show whether a company complies with this right at a supply chain’s production level. The FSS is organized into five pillars: The four pillars of food security alongside a fifth pillar to address additional cross-cutting issues included in the Right to Food Guidelines. The pillars are further specified through 17 principles.

The pillars are further defined by 17 principles.

The principles and criteria of the FSS enable existing certification systems to be strengthened by holistically covering the human right to food. 

To ensure that people who produce agricultural products for global markets always have access to sufficient and healthy food, factors such as adequate wages and acceptable working conditions are just as important as education, basic health care and connection to social security systems. The same applies to access to clean drinking water and the sustainable use of natural resources. These additional principles are covered by one or more criteria in the FSS. Additionally, on-site coverage is based on concrete indicators and verification points. These describe the exact requirements that must be met in order for the right to food to be respected in the farm’s area of responsibility.

→ Read more about our Principles and Criteria



1. Respect national food security and development strategies

2. Respect national food security and development strategies

3. Mitigate natural and human-made disaster risks


4. Ensure market access and contribute to local development

5. Safeguard long-term farm profitability and fair business conduct

6. Respect labour rights and ensure good working conditions

7. Provide training and capacity building

8. Offer social safety nets


9. Respect land rights

10. Respect water rights and ensure that water quality and availability are maintained or improved

11. Implement sustainable agricultural practices


12. Provide a setting for the safe utilization of food

13. Guarantee good nutrition


14. Provide complaint and grievance mechanisms

15. Respect women’s rights and ensure gender equity

16. Raise awareness for nutrition and support child education

17. Assess and monitor local food security


FSS Benefits


Farmers, workers and local communities

  • Farmers and workers are food secure and their Right to adequate Food is respected
  • Food security in the area of influence of an agricultural operation does not deteriorate
  • Food security gradually improves and reduces local inequalities (SDG 10)
  • Well-being of smallholders and workers increases
© Nilotpal Kalita / Unsplash

Producers of agricultural goods

  • Right to adequate food is protected by producers as much as it is their responsibility
  • Compliance with social standards contributes to better working conditions and thus also to improved production conditions and on the right to decent work and economic growth (SDG 8).
  • Higher resilience of the operation against hazards (natural, man-made)


  • Prove that all reasonable precautions and due diligence were applied to avoid committing an offence of the Human Right to Food
  • Mitigation of reputational risks
  • Competitive advantage
  • Compliance with upcoming due diligence legislation at national and EU level (contribution to SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth)
© Eduardo Soares / Unsplash


  • Increasing concerns for socially viable production conditions are addressed
  • Can opt for products that are also sustainable regarding food security and thus contribute to SDG 12 “Sustainable consumption”.
“Many farm workers and small-scale farmers who grow food and agricultural goods for export to Europe are going hungry and their human rights are being violated. The FSS ensures the food security of farmers and workers while protecting nearby communities from the negative effects of export production.”
— Tina Beuchelt, Centre for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn

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The Food Security Standard (FSS) takes into account the Right to adequate Food in agricultural production. Applying the FSS in sustainability certification systems ensures that farmers, workers, and neighbouring communities are food secure.

Welthungerhilfe is one of the largest private aid organisations in Germany, independent of politics and religion. It was established in 1962, as the German section of the “Freedom from Hunger Campaign”.

Meo Carbon Solutions is an independent consulting company with a focus on sustainable development solutions, smallholder empowerment and social compliance, sustainability certification and carbon footprint improvement. Meo is working on a global scale and supporting the application of the FSS.

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