The water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the mountains we climb and the sea we swim in – these things (among many others) form part of the environment. Since humans are at the top of the food chain, we have an immense impact on the environment. We should ensure that our interactions with the environment are sustainable. Considering this, the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) provides a platform for agricultural stakeholders to ensure ethical and environmentally sustainable trade.

Every individual, corporation, business sector and government has a choice to make and a role to play in preserving the environment. However, positive change can only be achieved and sustained when everyone works together.

It can also be argued that enterprises with an environmental sustainability vision will not only contribute to the conservation of the resources we as humans depend on, but will also contribute to the economic pillar of sustainability and result in saving costs.

The role of SIZA

In addition to an already well-established ethical (social) standard, SIZA also includes a comprehensive and widely accepted environmental standard for suppliers in the agricultural sector.

The SIZA Environmental Standard was developed in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa (WWF-SA). It aims to assist South African suppliers in becoming compliant while also promoting environmental stewardship.

Why create an environmental standard for South Africa?

Being a producer in the South African agricultural sector comes with a unique set of circumstances. As a result, the SIZA standards were developed to take these circumstances into account and to assist South African suppliers in reaching compliance in a way that is practical and relevant to them.

The SIZA Environmental Standard is therefore rooted in South African environmental legislation, while also expanding on risk areas that are particularly important in South Africa.

To further the cause for environmental stewardship and to ensure that South African producers remain at the forefront of environmental trends, the SIZA Environmental Standard includes the implementation of globally recognised good agricultural practices and requirements.

Focus points

The SIZA environmental programme focuses on the sustainable management of the four cornerstones of the environment, namely soil, water, energy, materials and waste, as well as biodiversity and ecosystems. The main objectives of the programme are to improve input efficiencies and to manage and mitigate environmental at farm, packhouse and processing level.

Requirements vary from practices to prevent environmental pollution and degradation, measuring and monitoring the efficiency with which finite resources such as water and energy are used, and ensuring that biodiversity and ecosystems are preserved into the future.

The standard is structured in a way that helps suppliers to establish a starting point (baseline) on their journey to environmental sustainability, and to progress to setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-linked (SMART) targets to track progress, monitor efficiency, and drive continuous improvement.

The audit process

A SIZA environmental audit is not a pass or fail exercise, but rather a benchmark for producers to evaluate their compliance with South African environmental laws and globally recognised good agricultural practices by driving continuous improvement.

SIZA has adopted a third-party audit approach through which environmental audits are conducted by internationally recognised independent audit entities to ensure that the programme is credible and transparent throughout.

With the objectives of eliminating duplication, driving a cost- and time-effective approach, and providing better transparency to stakeholders on a global scale, the SIZA Environmental audit can be conducted either as a stand-alone or a combined solution audit together with the GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard.

While the respective audits may take place at the same time, two separate and comprehensive reports will be issued. The SIZA Environmental Audit Report will be uploaded to the MySIZA online platform to ensure visibility in terms of environmental compliance to all relevant stakeholders.

For the convenience of buyers, data will also be displayed through the GLOBALG.A.P. platform. Why two audit reports? To ensure that suppliers who supply to more than one market only have to complete one audit which will be accepted by multiple markets. In pursuit of driving continuous improvement, corrective actions on all non-compliances are required and the frequency of third-party audits is based on risk ratings.

Suppliers with a higher level of compliance are therefore rewarded with a two- or three-year audit validity. For more information on the process, follow this link.

The SIZA approach

SIZA’s strength lies in our hands-on approach. We not only support producers to reach compliance, but we also ensure that risks are as low as possible for buyers. This is achieved by implementing dedicated audit oversight and enforcing strict competency requirements for SIZA-approved third-party auditors and audit entities.

With the focus on continuous improvement, SIZA conducts in-between audit monitoring through the completion of annual self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs) and on-site visits to ensure compliance is upheld beyond the audit.

Linked buyers can access credible risk reports on their suppliers’ audit and SAQ data through the MySIZA online platform that is profiled according to non-compliances, best practices, and risks. SIZA also offers a second-party verification process where the focus is on driving continuous improvement.

Capacity building and emerging growers

Creating awareness and building capacity is another way in which SIZA aims to grow environmental stewardship in South Africa. SIZA has always supported our members and third-party auditors by presenting compliance training on legislation and the relevant standards. We have recently adapted our training methods to include interactive webinars, which ensures that we can continue to offer the necessary support during globally difficult times and reach an even wider audience.

To raise awareness at grassroots level, SIZA has developed an environmental stewardship video (SIZA Caring for the Environment) to help both producers and agri workers to live and work more sustainably.

In addition, SIZA offers a compliance and market readiness programme for emerging growers, which assists emerging growers to comply with global market requirements to get market ready to export their fruit. These growers receive the necessary assistance and training over three years, after which they are deemed to be audit ready.

Through awareness-raising initiatives, capacity building programmes, routine on-site visits and the third-party audit system, SIZA aims to encourage the implementation of best practices that exceed minimum legal requirements. These best practices also address the broader impact we have on the environment.

In doing so, SIZA can ensure that our natural environment is protected, and food security is sustained for generations to come. – Press release, The Sustainability Initiative of South Africa