While many of the world's major commodities benefit from their own standard for sustainability - palm oil has the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), soy has the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) and cane sugar has Bonsucro - rice has had to wait until this week, with the launch of the Sustainable Rice Platform's standard on sustainable rice cultivation.
In the same week Mars became the first major food company to announce it would source 100% of its rice sustainably by 2020.
James Lomax, programme officer for food systems and agriculture at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is a member of SRP, told FoodNavigator: “The standard offers an objective means of benchmarking and comparing the sustainability of any rice production system, thus allowing farmers, managers, researchers and extension workers to focus field interventions and training more effectively and tailor[them] to actual needs.”
The standard has eight impact zones which aim to increase sustainability at every level of cultivation.
It also has a set of key performance indicators that allow supply chain actors and farmers to measure sustainability and monitor success. These include profitability, pesticide-use efficiency and water productivity but also child labour and women’s empowerment.
Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) which co-founded the SRP, said: "[This is] the world's first initiative that will set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards. Our key challenge now is to incentivise and scale up adoption, especially among resource-poor small farmers."
Productivity, yield: Improve livelihoods of current and future generations of rice growers
Food safety: Meet consumer needs for food security, food safety, and quality of rice and rice products
Water, nutrients, pesticides: Manage natural resources efficiently
Biodiversity: Protect the natural environment from disruptive effects
Community: Protect neighbouring communities from disruptive effects and contribute to their development
Greenhouse gas emissions: Mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt rice production systems to a changing climate
Health and safety, labour rights, child labour: Respect labour rights and promote the well-being of workers
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