The EcoSocial program was first launched by Brazil’s organic certification body IBD Certifications. It requires growers and producers to choose at least two ecological and two social goals in order to qualify, and they must continuously improve on these goals to retain recognition under the program. The program also requires certified organic producers to make information available to the public on the projects they support including the level of funding they provide.
Any premiums charged on certified products must be used to benefit the producer’s community.
Founder and president of Global Organics Dave Alexander said: "EcoSocial's focus on total transparency, strong social and environmental standards, and the ability for growers and producers to choose projects that best benefit their specific communities and circumstances make EcoSocial a uniquely vital certification.”
While it is being touted as a ‘3-in-1’ certification covering a range of ethical standards, Global Organics said that specific circumstances would be taken into account, allowing flexibility according to regional and cultural context and the type of ingredient being produced.
Market research organization Nielsen has suggested that foods that fail to encompass a wide range of ethical standards could face consumer backlash.
According to the International Fairtrade Labeling Organization, consumers worldwide spent over $3.6bn on Fairtrade certified products in 2007, a 47 percent increase on the previous year.
Meanwhile, in the US around 19 percent of the adult population, or about 40m people, are actively engaged in environmental issues, and a further 19 percent who, though not politically committed to the environmental movement, are focused on natural or organic foods.
There is also evidence that the organic market has been diluted, and growth has slowed as consumers look to other ethical claims such as Fairtrade, locally sourced, free range, and GMO-free.
The EcoSocial scheme looks to bring these claims under the one umbrella.
Organic Valley CEO George Siemon said: "Organic Valley welcomes this long-awaited opportunity to certify that the organic sugar we use meets stringent social and economic criteria. We encourage the organic community to join us in support of EcoSocial's 'ethical trading' principles which encompass not only economic but community and environmental issues as well."