- Certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs provide assurance (through a certification mechanism) that certain characteristics or attributes of the product or its production method or system have been observed.
- This research project has identified a total of 198 certification schemes at EU level and in the main third countries. A typology of nine types of certification schemes has been elaborated and 15 flagship schemes have been selected for detailed analysis. For each of these selected schemes, the contribution to the EU sustainability objectives has been analysed. Some have a broad scope of commitments, likely to provide a direct or high contribution to nearly all EU sustainability objectives. Other schemes can help achieve one to three EU objectives (mainly management of resources, protection of the environment, health and animal welfare, and less frequently climate change). The remaining ones specifically focus on one objective, i.e animal welfare or climate.
- A significant share of the schemes analysed covers some requirements related to the new CAP conditionality framework (statutory management requirements (SMRs) and good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs)). Only a few schemes provide guarantees beyond the required practices of a significant number of SMRs and GAECs. Certification schemes could also be instrumental in supporting the adoption or maintenance of farming practices requested by the eco-schemes and the agri-environment climate measures (AECM): most of the schemes analysed cover some of the eco-schemes farming practices (generally less than one-quarter, based on a list of 22 pratices proposed by the Commission in 2021) and a few schemes cover more than one-third of the practices.
- Conversely, it does not sound relevant to use CS in the framework of the result indicators foreseen by the new CAP, as CS do not generally foresee a comprehensive and centralised monitoring system.
- Targeted and relevant certification schemes could prove useful within the CAP national strategic plans to achieve the CAP sustainability objectives, provided that a specific assessment of the requirements and method of implementation of each of these schemes is conducted to prevent any greenwashing risk. From a CAP perspective, certification schemes seem to present a limited risk of competition distorsion between Member States.
MAPPING AND TYPOLOGY
A total of 198 certification schemes (CS) at farm level have been identified. 86% of them are established in the EU (170 schemes) and 28 schemes in third countries. More than two-thirds have been set up by private bodies and one-third is owned by public entities. Most schemes apply to several types of products. The most represented sector is livestock, followed by fruits and vegetables, crops, wine and seafood.
A total of 9 profiles have been identified based on thematic areas covered by the schemes and 15 CS have been selected for further analysis. The profiles identified and the 15 selected CS are:
- “Good agricultural practices”: Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE), Integrowana Produkcja, IP Sigill, Leaf, Sistema di Qualità Nazionale di Produzione Integrata per le Produzioni Agricole (SQNPI);
- “Origin and quality of the final products”: geographical indications (GIs): protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs);
- “Traceability and safety”: no CS from this type has been selected for detailed analysis;
- “Animal welfare and health”: Beter Leven, Initiative Tierwohl;
- “Organic +”: Naturland;
- “Climate”: Label Bas-Carbone, Wineries for Climate Protection (WfCP);
- “Multi-purpose”: Bord Bia Quality Mark, Certified Sustainable Beef Framework (CSBF), Equalitas, Global G.A.P. and Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA);
- “Non-GMO”: no CS from this type has been selected for detailed analysis;
- “Fairtrade”: no CS from this type has been selected for detailed analysis.
CONTRIBUTION OF CS TO EU SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES
Among the 15 CS analysed, some have a broad scope of commitments, and are likely to provide a direct or high contribution to nearly all EU sustainability objectives (for instance: IP Sigill, Leaf, Naturland and Equalitas). Other schemes have been tailored to address one to three EU objectives (mainly management of resources, protection of the environment, health and animal welfare, and less frequently climate change). A few schemes specifically focus on one objective: animal welfare (Beter Leven and Initiative Tierwohl) or climate (Label Bas-Carbone).
COHERENCE BETWEEN CS REQUIREMENTS AND CONDITIONALITY RULES
A significant share of the 15 CS analysed covers some of the good agricultural and environmental conditions (GAECs) and statutory management requirements (SMRs) foreseen by the new conditionality provisions (with a similar or, in some cases higher level of ambition).
The level of coverage falls into the following categories:
- CS focusing on “good agricultural practices” (HVE, IP Sigill, Leaf) as well as “Organic +” (Naturland) demonstrate a high level of coverage.
- other CS focusing on other aspects cover a less significant number of GAECs and SMRs. This is the case for instance of Beter Leven (level 3), Bord Bia Quality Mark, CSBF and Global G.A.P.
- other CS focus on practices defined on a case-by-case basis by stakeholders and therefore do not cover any GAECs and SMRs: examples include Label Bas-Carbone, WfCP and PDOs/PGIs.
- a few CS provide guarantees beyond the requirements of a significant number of GAECs/SMRs: HVE (including options), Beter Leven (level 3 of dairy cattle standard) and to a lesser extent IP Sigill, Leaf and Naturland.
CS USED AS POTENTIAL ELIGIBILITY OR CONTROL CRITERION FOR THE CAP: AGRI-ENVIRONMENT-CLIMATE MEASURES (AECM) AND ECO-SCHEMES
The use of certification schemes as eligibility or control criterion has been analysed through their capacity to comply with the regulatory requirements defined by EU Regulations.
The certification schemes are generally suitable to be used in national strategic plans and fulfil most of the common and specific provisions for both AECMs and eco-schemes.
While some National Strategic plans Submitted by Member States (France, Ireland, Italy and Poland) already plan to use some CS to implement the new CAP, a wider use of CS schemes could be envisioned to lead to the adoption or maintenance of practices supported by the eco-schemes:
- most of the CS analysed cover some of the 22 agro-ecological farming practices proposed by the European Commission for eco-schemes in 2021. The number of practices encompassed by each CS varies and covers generally less than one-quarter of the 22 practices suggested;
- a few schemes cover even more than one-third of the practices: Naturland (68%), IP Sigill (option included, 50%) and Beter Leven (level 3, 41%) and HVE (including option, 36%).
Conversely, it does not sound relevant to use CS in the framework of the result indicators foreseen by the new CAP, as CS do not generally foresee a comprehensive and centralised monitoring system.
 List of potential agricultural practices that eco-schemes could support DG AGRI, 2021 https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/commission-publishes-list-potential-eco-schemes-2021-jan-14_en
RISK OF GREENWASHING AND COMPETITION RISKS
Since the level of guarantees provided by the different CS on each environmental and climate area differs greatly, these risks must be assessed specifically for each CS for each EU objective.
Overall, a limited risk of competition distortion has been identified as the CS are generally open to all producers and each CS is usually not compulsory to access a specific market.
Based on this analysis, the study recommends:
- To encourage the use of the relevant certifications’ schemes within the CAP national strategic plans to achieve the EU sustainability objectives.
- To use certification schemes to implement the CAP and achieve CAP objectives; this is particularly relevant for SMRs, GAECs, eco-schemes and AECMs. Practically, this could be supported by the development of tools such as:
- an equivalence programme between certification schemes and CAP instruments (SMRs, GAECs, eco-schemes and AECMs).
- guidelines for the assessment of the equivalence of schemes with CAP instruments (SMRs, GAECs, eco-schemes and AECMs). These guidelines shall consider specifically:
- the contribution to at least one environment or climatic objective of the CAP,
- clear environmental or climatic added value (measurable achievements),
- requirements with “clear added value” that are compulsory (and not optional) in the CS,
- third-party control,
- implementation of a monitoring system which can feed into the EU monitoring system.
- To use some certification schemes in the risk analysis for CAP controls (to be assessed on a case-by-case basis).