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Addressing Human Rights Due Diligence: Two Pathways within the Food Security Standard

FSS — An Instrument for Compliance with Human Rights Due Diligence Obligations

FSS — An Instrument for Compliance with Human Rights Due Diligence Obligations

The benefits of using the FSS approach:

  • Usable within the framework of the German Supply Chain Act (LkSG) and international principles (UN Global Compact & UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights) to prove that protected legal positions have been safeguarded.
  • Practical and proven approach to implement socially sustainable management systems with its catalog of criteria.
  • Provides tools for companies to demonstrate that the right to food and other social human rights are respected in their production and sphere of influence.
  • Serves to increase credibility through independent audit results and regular impact checks
  • Utilized for reporting on UN SDG 2 and GRI 13.9, among others.
  • Applicable wherever hunger is a risk.

Many products from the Global South are increasingly produced in compliance with stricter environmental guidelines — including cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, palm oil and sugar cane. The German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG)—which came into force in January 2023—and other regulations are intended to address human and environmental rights in global supply chains more strongly.

However, human rights violations such as hunger are present in numerous products from the Global South and are still a mostly invisible issue.

Addressing these violations requires comprehensive yet easy-to-use tools that enable companies to quickly analyze potential risks and grievances in their supply chains and directly resolve them.

“If they are correctly identified and applied, the requirements of the FSS and the audit criteria provide a high degree of certainty that an audited or certified company indeed complies with the protected legal positions expressly referred to in the LkSG and protects the right to food. The entire FSS certification process, comprising the NaFSA, the QAT and FOSSEM up to FSS certification, is capable of covering the main due diligence obligations under of the LkSG”

– Legal Benchmark, GvW Graf von Westphalen

The FSS Toolbox

The FSS toolbox can be used flexibly and is tailored to the specific circumstances of smallholders, medium-sized farms or plantations. The tools can be used for FSS certification or to identify risks and possible grievances at the production level on a farm and in the respective area of responsibility.

NAFSA

The National Food Security Assessment tool uses publicly available data to identify potential human rights risks for each country, with a focus on the right to food. The tool’s output provides an initial overview of national risk priorities and offers additional questions for an on-site audit.

QAT

The Quick Assessment Tool The QAT identifies concrete food security risks at the local level, which are captured using a structured questionnaire for smallholder farmers, workers and external stakeholders (based on FAO FIES questions). Information obtained in the audit process can be cross-checked in interviews from the QAT. The FSS QAT enables cost-effective monitoring of local food security in the context of the other tools.

Checklist

The FSS Audit Procedure Tool is an audit checklist — including criteria, indicators and guidance for reviewing operations. This checklist enables the identification of gaps in FSS compliance. The results are used to develop an improvement plan and for reporting. This tool simultaneously provides the management of a cooperative or farm with an inventory of relevant aspects for socially sustainable farm management.

If they are correctly identified and applied, the requirements of the FSS and the audit criteria provide a high degree of certainty that an audited or certified company indeed complies with the protected legal positions expressly referred to in the LkSG and protects the right to food. The entire FSS certification process, comprising the NaFSA, the QAT and FOSSEM up to FSS certification, is capable of covering the main due diligence obligations under of the LkSG

– Legal Benchmark, GvW Graf von Westphalen

FSS Certification

FSS certification enables companies to demonstrate their commitment to human rights due diligence through independent certification. The FSS principles and criteria complement existing sustainability certification schemes by covering the human right to food in a holistic way.

Seamless Integration into existing certification schemes

The FSS certification is designed as a supplement to existing certification schemes and is verified within the framework of the same audit in order to minimize effort and costs. Only if all principles and criteria are fulfilled can it be assumed that a company has taken all necessary measures to guarantee the human right to food of workers and smallholders.

The FSS can be combined with any sustainability standard in the agricultural sector and applies to all types of agricultural products and their uses, as well as to all farm sizes and farm types.

How to get certified?

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FOSSEM – What is covered

Many farms are not able to meet the requirements of full certification right away. In these situations, the FSS offers an alternative path: Food Security Sensitive Management (FOSSEM).

FOSSEM is designed for farms that are not yet certified or cannot yet fully meet social sustainability requirements because they may be in a challenging context. It offers a step-by-step and customizable approach to implementing human rights due diligence requirements and can lead to full certification.

In the context of current legislation, it can be used as evidence of corporate due diligence and serves primarily as a tool for building management that is also aligned with social sustainability goals.

FOSSEM Theory of Change
  • Continuous improvement: FOSSEM is designed for newcomers and operations within a challenging context. It allows farms to move at their own pace, document progress and develop action plans.
  • Prioritization of risks: Although FSS certification is the ultimate goal, FOSSEM enables operations to meet their human rights due diligence obligations without having to fully comply with all criteria immediately. Prioritization allows operations to focus individually on the most pressing actions.
  • Tailored action plans: Each operation’s specific situation is considered and addressed through customized solutions.
  • Demonstrate commitment: According to the German Supply Chain Sourcing Obligations Act, companies have a duty to demonstrate effort in fulfilling their obligations. With FOSSEM, companies can show their actions towards responsible practices and respect for human rights, even without certification.

How FOSSEM works

FOSSEM is implemented in two levels: FOSSEM Basic and FOSSEM Advanced.

With FOSSEM Basic, companies can choose which criteria they work on first, with targets and timelines set individually. The goal is to meet selected minimum criteria after three years at the latest.  While self-assessment is possible in FOSSEM Basic, in FOSSEM Advanced compliance is checked for the first time by an external auditor. Finally, FOSSEM Advanced can lead to FSS certification.

FOSSEM progression and requirements

Complaint Mechanisms

The complaint mechanism runs through the respective main standard with which the FSS is applied.

If in doubt, the FSS team is available to answer questions at:

FSS Recognized Standards

The following sustainability certification systems have been benchmarked with the Food Security Standard and are recognized by the FSS:

The following standards were used to test the practicality of the FSS:

  • UTZ/Rainforest Alliance
  • ISCC
  • Cotton made in Africa
  • RSPO

Accredited CB’s

For an FSS audit, recognition by the respective certification system is also required. All auditors within a certification scheme can be trained, and only trained and recognized auditors are allowed to perform audits.

The following certification bodies have already audited the FSS:

  • AfriCert Ltd.
  • CafeControl
  • CERES GmbH
  • Control Union S.A.S. (Colombia)
  • Control Union Gözetim ve Belgelendirme Ltd. Şti (Turkey)
  • Control Union Services S.A.C (Peru)
  • Green Domus Desenvolvimento Sustentável
  • IBD Certificações
  • SGS
  • SCS Global Services
  • TÜV Rheinland
  • VCC&C
  • VSCB Vietnam Limited Company

In principle, FOSSEM can also be verified as part of a second-side verification. For recognition, please contact the FSS team.

FSS-Certified Producers

The following producers have valid FSS certificates:

  • GREMCA Agricultura y Energía Sostenible S.A.

Conducted assessments with partners/companies:

  • MAP project from WHH & WWF, rubber (Cambodia 2023)
  • Vegbox Horticulture, fruit/vegetable (Ethiopia, 2023)
  • Coffee Management Services CMS, coffee (in cooperation with UTZ/Rainforest Alliance, Kenya, 2019)
  • Alliance Ginneries Ltd., cotton (in collaboration with Cotton made in Africa, Zambia, 2019)
  • Aguaí S.A., sugar cane (in collaboration with ISCC, Bolivia, 2019)
  • Wild Asia, palm oil (in collaboration with RSPO, Malaysia, 2019)
  • PT Hindoli Cargill, palm oil (in collaboration with RSPO, Indonesia, 2019)
“A company can only be successful if its growth benefits local communities.
— Lely Antelo Melgar, Aguaí

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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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