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Improving Lives Sustainably: Kemin's Certified Sustainably Grown Program

Posted May 06, 2019

Sustainable practices and goals are what keep a business adaptable. Every company's present strategies have an impact on the future of their customers, employees and the environment. Incorporating sustainability into every aspect of operations helps businesses achieve greater social value while providing a long-term framework for innovation. Most importantly, sustainability allows companies to develop solutions that improve lives while preserving the finite resources we all share.

The Three Lenses of Sustainability

Kemin believes that sustainability is the most high-impact way to improve life for this generation and those to come. This concept is complex and touches nearly every aspect of life. We use three distinct yet interconnected lenses to focus on sustainability:

·     Healthy People: Since its founding in 1961, Kemin has been committed to making lives better. Today, our products and services play a role in more than 3.8 billion lives every day. We believe that each of our employees makes an impact, and we actively support their engagement and growth for a stronger company and better product.

·     Healthy Planet: Our planet has a limited number of resources, and Kemin understands the duty we have to manage them responsibly. We are constantly analyzing and evaluating our energy consumption and finding ways to minimize our environmental footprint.

·     Healthy Business: When considering the health of people and the planet, it becomes clear that the only ethical way to do business is with sustainability as a core value. We strive to bring people and companies together on common ground and harness the human imagination to create mutually beneficial solutions for the present and the future.

Kemin's focus on these three aspects of corporate sustainability drives us to nourish people and the planet with our innovations in feed and nutrition while protecting the planet's resources and investing in innovation.


What Does to Mean to Be Green?

Sustainability has become a popular buzzword in recent years. As environmental change has come into sharper focus, consumers are learning more about the brands they buy from and are choosing more sustainable products. Globally, 66 percent of people are willing to pay morefor products made by a sustainable company. Any company can claim they're "green," and many do so with little or no evidence to back it up.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines sustainable agriculture2 as a system of plant and animal production practices that satisfy human needs for food and fiber while fulfilling these additional goals:

·     Enhancing environmental quality

·     Making the most efficient use of resources

·     Sustaining the economic viability of farming

·     Enhancing life for farmers and society at large

There are numerous certifications for sustainability, but not all programs are created equal. Kemin shows our commitment to the highest standards by growing crops certified Sustainably Grown by Scientifically Certified Systems (SCS) Global Services.


1. The Leading Sustainability Certification

SCS Global Services has been developing standards and certifications in sustainability for more than three decades. They work with businesses, government agencies and other stakeholders to promote sustainability all over the world. SCS is an independent third-party with the highest ethical standards and neutrality in auditing, testing and certification.

The SCS Sustainably Grown certification recognizes businesses that meet the world's most stringent operational standards and are actively committed to driving positive change in environmental and social sustainability. Companies must meet standards with four commitments to get a crop certified:

·     Safe working conditions

·     Thriving farming communities

·     Healthy ecosystems

·     No dangerous agrochemicals

The Sustainably Grown standard was designed to meet or exceed standards set by other organizations. The program has received multiple accreditations and meets critical international benchmarks.

·     Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP): SCS standards are benchmarked to GSCP codes, audit processes and reference tools which represent sustainable best practice in social audits and supply chains. Sustainably Grown averaged "A" grades for every GSCP criteria.

·     Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI): The program received a Silver equivalence level based on SAI's Farm Sustainability Assessment tool.

·     American National Standards Institute (ANSI): SCS is an accredited developer of standards and certifier of eco-labeling certification.

·     Sustainability Initiative Fruit and Vegetables (SIFAV): Based on conformance with criteria from the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), SCS is included in the SIFAV Basket of Standards.

SCS Global Services is at the forefront of global equivalence and accreditation and was the first U.S.-based sustainable agriculture certification to earn GSCP equivalence. Continuous pursuit of compliance with international standards makes SCS certification the most relevant and comprehensive measure of sustainability available.


2. Sustainability Goals

The standard for Sustainably Grown has multiple goals for the farming enterprise hoping to earn crop certification. The purpose of the program is to:

·     Encourage farmers to work toward the highest levels of environmental, economic and social sustainability and continue improvement over time.

·     Enhance the ability of agricultural operations to slow climate change by improving the quality of soil, increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.

·     Increase food security.

·     Promote better working conditions and worker protections.

·     Raise public awareness about sustainability issues in agriculture and encourage demand for products that reinforce sustainable production.


3. Earning Sustainably Grown Certification

There are five steps a company must complete to earn certification for its crops, and the process is rigorous. Completing the following steps requires large-scale organization and compliance with exacting standards. The process often takes years to complete and has to be repeated for each crop certified.

1.  Apply for certification: The application form provides everything SCS needs to know to start the process. It includes information on organizational structure, all the products and varieties a company works with as well as production sites, processors, handlers, workers and subcontractors.

2.  Approve work order: The company then decides whether to approve the work order based on the scope of the audit and costs of the certification.

3.  Complete self-assessment: SCS provides a checklist to help businesses prepare for the audit. This part of the process is often the most time-consuming as companies must go through their operations with a fine-toothed comb to ensure they are meeting every benchmark laid out in the standards. Producers must then identify any gaps in conformance and close them before the formal audit.

4.  Receive evaluation audit: The on-site audit is a lengthy inspection with multiple stages. The auditor begins with an opening meeting including all relevant individuals before conducting a physical inspection, reviewing documents and applicable records, interviewing personnel and finishing up with a closing meeting.

5.  Review and respond: After the auditor delivers a comprehensive report, companies have the opportunity to address any instances of non-conformities with a corrective action plan. The organization must show evidence that all corrective actions are in place to move forward.

Once the program assessor reviews all materials from the audit and action plan, they decide whether or not to issue certification. Only after this lengthy and involved process can agricultural operations call themselves Sustainably Grown certified.


Exacting Standards for Sustainability

The standards and frameworkfor Sustainably Grown certification are exhaustive and cover every aspect of sustainable agricultural practices. The standards fall into four categories — general, environmental, social and economic. Some standards within the framework are optional, providing businesses with the opportunity to go above and beyond.


1. General Criteria

Producers have to meet several general requirements on the organizational level to be eligible for certification.

·     Administrative: The producer must agree to unannounced audits and provide detailed information about crops and production practices. They must also have policies in place related to environmental and worker protection.

·     Legal compliance: The operation must comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding employment and production.

·     Transparency: The business must ensure that products are traceable throughout production and processing.

With this foundation in place, producers can get to the hard work of meeting the rest of the SCS standards.


2. Environmental Criteria

The environmental aspect is the core of Sustainably Grown certification. Producers must be able to develop and maintain systems that support ecological health while sustaining crop quality.

·     Crop diversity and quality: Farmers must grow at least two types of crops, monitor signs of diseases and develop a strategy to increase the health of the agro-ecosystem.

·     Pest control: Producers must approach pest control preventatively and enlist a licensed applicator to apply any pesticides. The producer also has to assess the risks of pesticide drift and take measures to minimize it.

·     No use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Farmers can't use GMOs as seed or planting stock, and must adopt procedures that minimize GMO contamination for high-risk crops.

·     Soil resources: Operations have to demonstrate that they are actively working to improve soil quality. This involves minimizing degradation from the buildup of pesticides, salts, fertilizers and heavy metals by testing soil regularly.

·     Water quality: The business must preserve water quality and use water efficiently. They have to asses water needs in the short and long term while ensuring agricultural activity doesn't deplete or degrade local water resources.

·     Air resources and climate: Producers must show that they are taking steps to minimize the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gasses. They have to calculate baseline carbon footprint and implement plans to reduce it.

·     Ecosystem protection: The producer must not clear or damage critical habitats, and must protect any threatened or endangered species in the area.

·     Energy efficiency: The business must track and minimize the net energy consumption per production unit, and keep track of renewable versus nonrenewable energy.

·     Waste management: Producers must show that they dispose of organic materials properly or use them beneficially. Hazardous materials must be disposed of responsibly, and the business has to pursue reductions in waste sent to landfills.

Meeting the environmental criteria comes with many challenges that require time and ingenuity to address. Each standard requires extensive documentation to prove and managerial expertise to implement.


3. Social Criteria

Sustainably Grown certified producers make a positive impact in their communities by following ethical employment practices. Their goal is to cultivate long-term relationships with employees and improve quality of life for workers. The requirements for these standards are extensive, covering these topics in detail:

·     Work agreements

·     Wages and benefits

·     Working hours

·     Child and voluntary labor

·     Non-discrimination and freedom of association

·     Human resource management

·     Health and safety

·     Community relations

These standards are designed to ensure workers are paid fairly and provided safe conditions. They also ensure that the producer is contributing to the health and growth of their community. Businesses with certified crops need to demonstrate that they are a positive addition for workers and their families in the area. Companies are encouraged to improve food security and provide mentoring or marketing opportunities to small-scale producers in the area.


4. Economic Criteria

The financial component cannot be overlooked, and SCS standards contain criteria to determine whether the growth of a particular crop is economically viable for the community. Certification requires conformance with standards in these areas of corporate sustainability:

·     Business accounting, reporting and planning

·     Continuity and resilience

·     Community economic engagement

·     Product quality and safety

Certified crops help support communities through local sourcing, and the maintenance of a continuity plan so workers have greater peace of mind when it comes to their job security. Sustainability is only a positive when the quality of products meets or exceeds SCS standards.

Sustainability across all these categories ensures that businesses are providing a quality product with minimal negative impact on the people and environments in the area.

Sustainable Sourcing at Kemin

Kemin is proud to offer two certified Sustainably Grown crops. Hi-RA spearmint and Hi-CA rosemary are proprietary crops developed for quality and yield in a sustainable framework. We use sustainably grown spearmint in our cognitive health dietary supplement Neumentix, providing people with an all-natural and earth-friendly boost to working memory. We offer sustainably grown rosemary as a natural preservative for food and pet food products.

Our initial decision to pursue Sustainably Grown certification came from observing the gap between consumer demand and production practices at the time. As consumers began asking for more natural ingredients, manufacturers started to make the switch. But we saw that our competitors were not looking for ways to improve the sourcing of their natural ingredients, so we set out to differentiate ourselves with sustainability.

Most suppliers of rosemary harvest it from the wild in a manner similar to clear-cutting. When all the crop is harvested at once, and large areas are left to regrow without management, the quality of soil degrades over time. Eventually, the available supply of wild plants dwindles, the environment is destroyed, and the process continues to become less viable.

We decided to take the demand for natural products seriously and work towards sustainability all the way down the line. We are currently the only supplier of SCS-certified Sustainably Grown rosemary and spearmint.


Our Continued Commitment

Kemin is in the process of implementing sustainability in the development of multiple other crops. We are currently bringing our production, management and social practices into alignment with SCS standards to earn certification for marigold, oregano and potato. The process of certifying these crops will expand our ability to drive positive change for the people and environments we work with.

Certified sustainably grown ingredients are a meaningful way to show your customers you care about your product's quality and global impact. If you're interested in learning more about our sustainable ingredients and products, contact Kemin today.