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CERTAIN: Certification evaluation toolkit and methods for inspiring consumer trust in food producers

Since the advent of organic food labelling and certification programs in the 1970s, food labelling and certification schemes have multiplied.

Rainforest Alliance (RA) was established in the late 1990s to certify farms that met a number of social, occupational health and environmental standards.

They began with certifying bananas, but have expanded to over 100 crops across the tropics. Yet, despite their proliferation and the growing list of promised improvements, there is a lack of data with which to evaluate the impact of certification criteria; where impact has been evaluated, there is a lack of a standardized methodological approach, making comparative or more general conclusions difficult.

This project seeks to create and implement a toolbox of indicators and methods for measuring and evaluating the impact of food certification standards in order to understand how different certification criteria contribute to environmental, social and economic improvements in production systems and to ensure that certified farms achieve the benefits promised by different labels.

In July 2017, RA will bring into enforcement a new certification process based on highly modified criteria, with the aims of achieving greater positive impact and simplifying the certification process. In November 2016, RA approached project researchers with their desire to work together to evaluate the impact of their new standards.

The proposed initiative has several objectives:

  • identify a tool kit of indicators and methods for measuring impact of production systems
  • use the tool kit to establish a baseline of impact for the new certification process that RA is introducing
  • test the tool kit by comparing RA-certified banana farms with non-certified banana farms.

Creating and expanding sustainable agri-food systems is a leading research challenge and central to achieving many of the SDGs. This project addresses this theme in banana production (a pesticide intensive crop with many labour and justice issues) in Costa Rica and Ecuador, but with the possibility of conducting research in other developing countries across the tropics, as well as other crops (RA certifies over 100 crops grown throughout the developing world), coupling the environmental impact with social impact by measuring the community development and well-being aspects of certification standards.

Additional funding

Funder: Cardiff University Seedcorn Funding - £6,640

People involved: Dr A Sanderson Bellamy, Dr A Herman

Dates: 01/06/2017–31/05/2018

The project team

Susan Baker

Professor Susan Baker

Emerita Professor, Co-director Sustainable Places Research Institute


This research was made possible through the support of the following organisations: