The FSS in Action: GREMCA S.A.’s Journey to Becoming the First Food Security Standard Certified Company Under ISCC


GREMCA Agricultura y Energía Sostenible, S.A. (GREMCA) is a Colombian agro-industrial palm oil company located in El Copey, César, Colombia. It achieved a significant sustainability milestone by becoming the first company certified under International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC).

The FSS complements existing certification schemes and supports agricultural producers in further addressing social sustainability, especially the right to food within their operations. It enables them to assess human rights risks and identify mitigation measures through practical tools that apply to all types of agricultural products and their uses, as well as to all farm sizes and farm types. The FSS also enables companies to demonstrate their commitment to human rights due diligence at the production level of agricultural goods, which enhances the well-being of the workers, their families, and the surrounding communities.

The FSS is designed to be integrated as an add-on to any existing sustainability standard. In the case of GREMCA, the company became certified under the ISCC EU and PLUS schemes, using the voluntary Food Security add-on. The following case study focuses on GREMCA’s efforts to protect the right to food and the wide range of human rights interconnected.


Oil palm is the most productive oilseed in the world, with the lowest land requirement per one ton of oil and the lowest production cost per hectare—yielding on average between 6–10 times more oil per area than rapeseed, sunflower or soybean. It also has a long life span and provides continuous harvest for 25–30 years. These characteristics have contributed to its recent rise in the market, generating a vast amount of employment and contributing to the economic development of many key producing countries. Furthermore, its derivative products are found worldwide and in a wide range of products, such as edible oils, food, biomass sources for biofuel production or as oleo-chemicals used in other goods.

According to a report by the Colombian National Federation of Oil Palm Growers (FEDEPALMA), Colombia is the largest palm oil and palm kernel oil producer in the Americas and the fourth largest globally, comprising 8.1% of the national agricultural GDP. Additionally, Colombia’s oil palm industry contributes to the creation of approximately 178,000 jobs and benefits thousands of families. However, as highlighted in a report by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR-ICRAF), oil palm production is also associated with several social and environmental challenges that must be addressed. For Colombia, these include the risk of poor working conditions for farmers and workers, lack of respect for traditional rights and dispossession of land by violent groups—the occurrence of at least one of these events could lead to a scenario of food insecurity.

Recently, Colombia has experienced a significant deterioration in food security, and according to a 2023 World Food Programme Report, 30% of the population suffers some level of food insecurity. The César Department, where GREMCA operates, is one of the most affected, with 55% of the population suffering the effects of an increased risk of hunger and food insecurity due to structural factors such as poverty, unemployment, violence alongside temporary factors related to climate conditions, COVID-19, the Ukraine crisis and inflation.

In response to the situation, Colombia has worked collectively with institutions and communities through development programs, training, seed funding, technical assistance, and socio-entrepreneurial support. These efforts resulted in a 5% reduction in food insecurity levels at the start of 2024, according to a World Food Programme news release.

Acknowledging the critical importance of addressing food insecurity within its supply chain, GREMCA initiated its journey to obtain the FSS certification as an add-on to the ISCC certification. It looked to enhance its efforts to ensure the well-being of its workforce and neighboring communities while aligning with ethical standards and responsible business practices.


The FSS team, which is managed by Meo Carbon Solutions (MCS) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH), supported GREMCA on its certification journey with the preparation for the audit and advice on how to identify and implement measures to close gaps found during the FSS audit.

1. Audit Preparation

Prior to the audit, ISCC and the FSS conducted numerous training sessions to help prepare GREMCA’s farm management. Topics included raising awareness on food security and nutrition in Colombia, the FSS criteria, developing adequate documentation and how to organize nutrition training sessions for their workers.

The FSS team also helped GREMCA conduct a thorough gap assessment of its existing sustainability initiatives against the FSS requirements to identify non-compliances. This involved evaluating agricultural practices, working conditions and community impacts.

2. Defining Measures to Close Identified Gaps

Following the audit, the results highlighted GREMCA’s commitment to the right to food: The company had already implemented multiple vegetable gardens for workers, a canteen, numerous drinking water facilities, sanitary facilities, and more. However, some gaps were identified during this stage and the FSS team supported GREMCA’s management team in identifying measures to close them.

GREMCA developed a strategy that would allow it to fulfill all required criteria and achieve the desired certification by including the right to food in its sustainability policy. It also implemented a food and nutrition training plan for all workers, ensuring that workers and farmers know the importance of food security and its four pillars.

During the audit, GREMCA also conducted mandatory stakeholder interviews with a public health secretary, a local doctor, a community representative, a local schoolteacher and a small producer neighboring the plantation. While stakeholder interviews are not often required in other sustainability schemes, these interviews allow companies to consider the interconnectivity of the area of influence and their operation. These stakeholder interviews gave GREMCA external expertise in improving the food security situation.


To minimize costs and human resources while ensuring a comprehensive assessment, FSS criteria verification occurs simultaneously during the main sustainability audit, which was the ISCC EU and PLUS schemes. This approach significantly simplifies the certification process, enabling companies to demonstrate their commitment to food security and sustainability without undue burden.

The audit was carried out by the certification body Control Union, which verified compliance with ISCC EU, ISCC PLUS and the FSS criteria resulting in a successful certification for GREMCA on all three schemes.

The following results were achieved after successful certification:

  • GREMCA’s journey toward FSS certification generated transformative results—demonstrating the company’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.
  • By prioritizing food security, GREMCA continues contributing to the well-being of its workers and the neighboring communities within its supply chain.
  • The mandatory stakeholder interviews allowed GREMCA to assess the impact of its operations on the surrounding communities, foster meaningful partnerships and identify and close gaps.
  • The streamlined certification process allowed GREMCA to obtain the FSS certification without significant added efforts and costs.
  • Achieving FSS certification can provide GREMCA with a market advantage, enhancing its reputation and demonstrating its efforts to respect the right to food.

Written by Juan Andrade-Rivera, an ESG student assistant at Meo Carbon Solutions, for the Food Security Standard (jointly managed by Meo Carbon Solutions and Welthungerhilfe).

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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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