Your Questions – Our Answers!

You have a question on how the FSS works, who it addresses and why living income is not enough to ensure zero hunger supply chains? We have the answers below. For a good overview of the areas of application and function of the FSS, click here for our explanatory videos. If you cannot find your question here, Contact us!

Frequently asked questions

    • First get in touch with your certification body. It may already offer a certification including the FSS, and if not, it is usually easily implemented. Also the FSS Secretariat is happy to support you in organising the certification process and will provide the necessary documents.
    • Self-assess your level of compliance using the FSS tool box. Start with identifying the food security risk level, using the National Food Security Assessment Tool. Then familiarise with the requirements by going through the checklist to identify potential compliance gaps.
    • Make a plan to close the gaps and start preparing the audit. Make sure that all documentation is available and inform your staff about the audit and confidential interviews.
    • Remember to submit the number of workers per position and propose 6 stakeholders as interview partners to the certification body, like
      • a schoolteacher
      • a community leader
      • a nurse
      • an official responsible for food security and
      • an NGO representative
      • -> Some interview partners should be women.
    • After the opening meeting, the relevant documentation is reviewed, followed by a site visit including accommodations, storage, and other facilities. The auditor interviews workers and smallholders as well as resettled communities, if applicable.
    • The audit concludes with a presentation of findings and based on the report you can then implement corrective measures and submit evidence to the certification body. They will then grant FSS compliance confirmation.

All actors have a responsibility in the realisation of the Right to Food: governments, private sector, civil society organisations and individuals. Each state has the primary role and duty to protect everyone within its territory against human rights abuses committed by third parties, which includes protection against human rights abuses of the business sector. States set the institutional and legal framework and should also prevent enterprises and individuals from depriving people of their access to adequate food.

Businesses are expected to respect international covenants and human rights regardless of whether domestic laws exist or are fully enforced in practice. The private sector must make sure that business operations do not negatively impact on the Right to Food of the people who work for and with them their families, producers, and nearby communities. At a minimum, their business should not negatively affect food security, and at best, businesses should recognise that “a company can only be successful if its growth benefits local communities”, Lely Antelo Melgar, Aguaí.

Individuals also have a responsibility through their diet, food preparation and storage: a healthy diet enhances health and prevents non-communicable diseases.

The FSS does not directly address national food security issues as it focuses on the people involved in a defined agricultural production site. But producers are of course requested to respect national food security strategies and to contribute to their fulfilment. Additionally, if the FSS is implemented over a longer period, it is expected to contribute to development at community level as it foresees contributions to local development through strengthening of local value creation. Positive changes are especially expected in the area of influence due to improved working conditions, healthy diets and better access to medical care. Through crop diversification and additional employment generation, there should be less income fluctuations of temporary or casual workers and resource-constrained smallholders. Workers will have a pension scheme once they retire, and smallholders will have funds set aside for retirement.

The disaster risk management plans, which have to be developed jointly with communities and local authorities, also benefit the households in the communities. Additional joint projects and infrastructure may be established such as health stations or schools. Food security in the area is expected to progressively improve as a result of joint involvement of farmers and governmental organisations. It is assumed that workers will start to demand comparable employment conditions from non-certified farms and use the implementing farms as role models. A growing international market demand for the FSS and human right compliance, including related supply chain laws and initiatives, is necessary to drive changes at higher levels.

Yes, as a Human Rights-based standard, the FSS is based on the definition of Human Rights as being indivisible and interdependent. And according to the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food. Fundamental Human Rights need to be fulfilled: food security is an outcome of the realisation of existing rights. Here are some examples of links to other Human Rights:

  • Gender equality (Art. 2)
  • Freedom from discrimination (Art. 2)
  • Freedom from slavery (Art. 4)
  • Right to property (Art. 17)
  • Freedom of association (Art. 20)
  • Right to social security (Art. 22)
  • Right to work (Art. 23)
  • Right to rest and leisure (Art. 24)
  • Right to decent standard of living, including food, clothing, housing (Art.25)
  • Rights of Mothers and Childcare (Art. 25)
  • Right to Education (Art. 26)
  • Right to Water

Regarding food security, a living wage is just one of many factors essential for fulfilling the Right to Adequate Food. Living wage calculations are the result of extensive studies that are not available for all regions and only reflect the status quo at a certain point in time. Farmer incomes and thereby worker wages are threatened by international market price fluctuations, local weather events and conflicts combined with a lack of social safety nets. Stability is one of the key pillars of the Right to Food, as are availability, physical as well as economic access to food and utilisation. The FSS reflects the complex interactive factors which require a systematic human rights-based approach beyond living income to ensure that everyone has access to adequate food at all times.

Four reasons why a Living Wage alone is not enough to ensure food security:

  1. Living wages benefit workers but do not help to ensure food security in case of illness or after retirement.
  2. Possible negative impacts of agricultural production on communities in the area of influence (e.g. water, land) cannot be addressed by living wages.
  3. Living wages do not capture short-term shocks and market volatility. In case of low market prices, small-scale farmers might struggle to pay living wages to workers. Social security systems should be in place.
  4. Many jobs in agriculture are seasonal, and living wages cannot make up for unemployment periods.

The additional costs of a certification including FSS mainly depend on the additional auditor costs. The costs of reaching compliance depend considerably on the local context, existing management systems and experience with sustainability certifications. The more sophisticated a company`s existing sustainability management systems are, the lower the cost of including food security in the certification process. Costs involved in the certification process are generally threefold:

  • Certification fees: are to be paid to the certification body (CB), but are forwarded to the standard owner – currently there are no additional certification fees for the FSS.
  • Audit fees: are to be paid to the CB. These costs depend on the availability of a recognised CB in the country/region, as travel is a considerable cost factor. If the operation is already certified against a sustainability standard, including the FSS generally requires one additional auditor during the audit who is to be paid extra.
  • Compliance cost: this varies significantly for each production site depending on the amount of investment in time and money needed to achieve compliance with the standard requirements.

The Food Security Standard has been developed as a joint initiative of Welthungerhilfe, WWF and the Center for Development Research (Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung – ZEF) of the University of Bonn. The criteria were tested in different contexts involving more than 300 stakeholders from all over the world. The current FSS team consists of Welthungerhilfe and Meo Carbon Solutions GmbH staff and is being supported by an independent advisory council including experts from the development phase. The initiative receives financial support by the Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR) under the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

The FSS is an effective human rights due diligence tool for agricultural production. It follows the due diligence process as defined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which serves as baseline for several national regulatory initiatives:

risk analysis -> prevention & mitigation -> surveillance -> reporting

As a human rights-based standard, the FSS covers both the Right to Food and other rights potentially at risk in agricultural production. Despite the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains referring to food insecurity as one of the major risks in agricultural supply chains, the topic remains largely neglected by existing sustainability certification schemes. The FSS is a cost-effective solution for an encompassing human rights due diligence approach as it can be added to any other sustainability certification to close potential gaps in human rights.

For more information please read here: The Food Security Standard: A tool to comply with the upcoming German supply chain act? – Food Security Standard

The FSS complements existing sustainability certification schemes, which means it is verified together with your main sustainability standard in the same audit. Check on the FSS website whether the sustainability certification of your choice already offers certification with FSS.

If so, inform your certification body that you would like them to include FSS in the audit.

If not, get in touch with your sustainability standard.

Either way, the FSS Secretariat will be happy to support you in organising the certification process and will provide the necessary documents.

Many small-scale farmers and agricultural workers are going hungry. So far, this issue has not been addressed in sustainability certification. It is the duty of companies to respect and protect the human right to food. With the FSS, they can inform themselves about the local situation and address problem areas. By adopting the FSS, you prove that all reasonable precautions have been applied to avoid committing an offense against the Human Right to Food.

Also, in 2023, the German Supply Chain Act enters into force, making several due diligence obligations mandatory for companies. The FSS can be a practical tool to achieve compliance with this. Being compliant mitigates your reputational risk and gives you a competitive advantage to meet the consumer demand for socially viable production.

It is advisable to apply the FSS in countries with a food security risk. The World Food Program Hunger Map or the National Food Security Assessment Tool which is part of the FSS Toolbox, can be taken as a reference for the prevalence of food insecurity.

The FSS certification is designed for biomass in general. As such, it is suitable for all agricultural commodities and uses from food (e.g. coffee, bananas, cocoa) to feed (e.g. soy), energy (e.g. sugar cane, oil palm, wheat), bio-based materials (e.g. cotton, rubber) and many others, like flowers or pharmaceutical use.

Yes, the FSS provides all the tools needed to certify smallholders. Generally, smallholders are not certifiable as individuals but are usually treated as a group, either as part of a cooperative or association, or through an outgrower scheme.

The FSS is not accredited because it is not designed to be a stand-alone standard but an add-on to existing accredited sustainability standards.

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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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