Generic Criteria Food & Beverages - Labour Policy Question 1

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Does the brand (company) use socially certified coffee and/or tea for at least XX% of its volume, thus combating child labor and forced labour, and providing a better living standard for the farmers and workers who produce the coffee and/or tea?

  • Dutch Question: Gebruikt het merk (bedrijf) sociaal gecertificeerde koffie en/of thee voor ten minste XX% van zijn totale productie om zo kinderarbeid en gedwongen arbeid te bestrijden en een betere levensstandaard te bieden aan boeren en arbeiders die koffie en thee produceren?
  • German version: Bezieht der Markenhersteller mindestens XX% des Kaffees / Tees von sozial zertifizierten Plantagen, auf denen bspw. keine Kinder, Menschen unter Zwang oder Sklaven arbeiten sowie ein grundlegend besserer Lebensstandard zugestanden werden?


This section provides background information on using certifcations for rankings. For specific instructions and examples of how to calculate the correct percentage, see Ranking Guidelines.

The coffee sector is a pioneering industry for sustainable development, as it was the first to develop a Fairtrade Certification Mark — Max Havelaar — as early as 1988. Since then, certifications have flourished in both the coffee and tea sector. Besides Fairtrade, leading certifications are Utz and Rainforest Alliance, all of which impose often extensive labour standards on the production of coffee and tea. For example, Utz, which is currently merging with Rainforest Alliance, addresses numerous labour issues, ranging from living wages and gender equality to forced labor and capacity building. Social certifications are thus a reliable indicator of the social sustainability of coffee and tea, but there are still a few complications in rating social sustainability:

  • There are many certifications, each using numerous and often complex social standards, which calls for an authoritative assessment of how strict exactly these standards of each certification are.
  • Even if coffee or tea is certified, that does not necessarily mean that the full 100% of coffee beans or tea leaves are produced according to the standards of a certification scheme.
  • Some coffee and tea brands use multiple certifications. This raises the question how much more worker friendly, for example, Fairtrade Utz is compared to regular Utz.

To address the first issue, Rank a Brand follows the authoritative recommendations of Milieu Centraal. Milieu Centraal started as an initiative of the Dutch environmental ministry, and is an independent, non-commercial scientific research institute that conducts its own research of certifications, including by means of a multi-stakeholder dialogue involving governing organizations of the certifications at hand. Their research is verified by an expert group and the process is governed by the Scientific Advice Council. As can be viewed here, Milieu Centraal evaluates certifications on a scale from 0 (“adhering to minimum legal requirements”) to 5 (“very strict demands”) on both environmental standards (“Milieu”) and labour standards (“Mens en Welzijn”), while verifying whether the certification is transparent (“Transparantie”) and strictly monitors compliance to its standards (“Controle”).

Currently, we only accept coffee and tea certifications that are rated by Milieu Centraal. For certifications such as Nestlé’s AAA Sustainable Quality Program or Starbucks’ C.A.F.E. practices, there is still insufficient clarity about independent auditing to consider them eligible. Note that both brands can apply for certifications such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade, when adhering to their standards, and have indeed collaborated with both certifications. The 4C Code of Conduct is explicitly an entry-level sustainability standard and therefore also not eligible for this question. If you encounter a credible certification that is not rated by Milieu Centraal, please contact

Regarding the second issue that certification does not guarantee that 100% of coffee beans or tea leaves are certified, we use the guaranteed minimum percentages.

Finally, regarding the issue of multi-certification, we have designed a calculus to reward brands for using more than one certification (see below).

Companies have to be specific about whether coffee or tea is multi-certified or not. Statements such as “50% of our coffee is Utz certified and 50% is Fairtrade certified” are vague, because it is unclear which percentage of coffee is only Utz certified, only Fairtrade certified, or both. In that case, calculate both the percentage assuming minimal and maximal multi-certification, and report the lower one. Here, minimal multi-certification means that 50% is Utz certified (scoring 5/5*90% = 90%) and 50% is Fairtrade certified (scoring 5/5*100% = 100%). As both are weighed 50%, the environmental score would be 50%*90% + 50% * 100% = 95%. This is higher than if we assume maximal multi-certification, which would mean 50% is not certified (0% score) and 50% is both UTZ and Fairtrade certified (i.e., a 100% score) for a total of 50%. Thus a score of 50% should be reported here.

Ranking Guidelines

Calculating the correct percentage requires multiplying three different percentages: (1) The amount of certified coffee beans, as reported by the brand itself on its website. For example, a brand may report that 50% of its coffee beans are Utz-certified.
(2) The Milieu Centraal score of the certification (see below). Utz scores 5/5 on "Mens & Welzijn" (corresponding to our "Labour Policy"), so receives a 100% score.
(3) Certification does not mean coffee beans are 100% certified. For example, Utz guarantees that 90% of coffee beans with the Utz-certification conforms to its criteria (see below). Therefore, this minimum 90% of coffee beans that are guaranteed to be certified has to be used in the calculation.

Thus, when a brand that reports that 50% of its coffee beans are Utz-certified, this means its coffee beans are (at least) 50% * 100% * 90% = 45% socially certified.

To elaborate on (2), the social scores in the coffee sector for Fairtrade, Utz, and Rainforest Alliance are all 5/5, which corresponds to a 100% score. For Naturland and the Ethical Tea Partnership, a rating of 3/5 can be used, which corresponds to a 60% score.

To clarify (3), (Max Havelaar) Fairtrade coffee guarantees that 100% of its coffee beans or tea leaves are certified, for Utz this is 90%, for Naturland 100%, for the Ethical Tea Partnership 100% and for Rainforest Alliance 30%. Note that for Rainforest Alliance this 30% denotes an entry level for farmers, who in subsequent years need to increase this percentage to at least 90%. Brands are encouraged to report the actual percentage of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee or tea, which can then be used for the calculation. If no percentage is reported, 30% can be used for ranking. Thus, coffee with a Rainforest Alliance label (rated as 5/5 on labour standards by Milieu Centraal) of which 50% is reported to be actually certified, receives a 50% * 100% = 50% score.

In practice, multi-certification occurs frequently, and can be incorporated in the calculation as follows. Given that coffee brands using socially certified coffee are bound to use Rainforest Alliance, Utz and/or Fairtrade and that these all rank 5/5, any coffee with more than one labour certification that includes one of these certifications can be given a 100% score (both on (2) and (3)). Thus Utz/Rainforest Alliance certified coffee receives a 100% score, even though Utz and Rainforest Alliance separately do not guarantee that 100% of their coffee is certified. An exception is the Ethical Tea Partnership certification, which is often used as a stepping stone toward stricter certification schemes - when combined with other certification(s), only these other certification(s) should be used in the calculation.

A ‘Yes’ is applicable when

  • The brand purchases more than XX% socially certified coffee and/or tea as evaluated by Milieu Centraal and calculated as explained above.

A ‘No’ is applicable when

  • The brand states to not buy any socially certified coffee and/or tea, or does not buy enough to achieve the required percentage.

A ‘?’ is applicable when

  • The brand does not specify whether its purchased products are from socially certified sources.
  • The brand does not specify the certification standard of the purchased products.

Answering Guidelines

Answer ‘yes’

  • [brand] purchases [coffee and/or tea] from [UTZ Certified/ Rainforest Alliance/ Fairtrade/ etc.], such that, in total, its coffee is [_%] socially certified.

Answer ‘no’

  • [brand] does not purchase [coffee and/or tea] from socially certified sources.
  • [brand] purchases [coffee and/or tea] from [UTZ Certified/ Rainforest Alliance/ Fairtrade/ etc.], but, in total, its coffee is only [_%] socially certified.

Answer ‘?’

  • [brand] does not communicate whether its [coffee and/or tea] comes from a socially certified source on its website.
  • [brand] claims to purchase [coffee and/or tea] from socially certified sources but does not specify the source or certification standard.

Note: when linking to a downloadable source document, please refer to the page(s) where to find the respective information with: (see link, page [..]).

Optional, but only for ? Answers, feel free to write at the end of a remark: Sustainability information should be easily accessible for consumers to make responsible choices.with: (see link, page [..]).