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Fibl launches new sustainability label “We Care”

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Two hands providing a shelter for plants growing on coins
The We Care standard specifies, among other things, how companies assume responsibility along the supply chain. © Shutterstock / kram9

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL) has developed a sustainability standard for companies in the food industry. It covers the entire value chain, is geared towards continuous improvement and has been pre-tested by two organic companies.

The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL) presented its new standard We Care at Biofach.

We Care refers to four fields of action:

  • Corporate Management
  • Supply chain management
  • Environmental management
  • Employee responsibility

These fields are divided into 45 topics with 164 individual criteria. An external certifier evaluates their fulfillment with grades from A to D, i.e. from "excellent" to "not implemented.

To reach the basic level, a company must achieve 60 per cent of the maximum possible points. For the higher level, 80 per cent are required and, in addition, an organic share of certifiable raw materials of at least 80 per cent. In addition, there are some knock-out criteria that prevent certification if they are not met. Random samples are taken during the audit to check whether the requirements are actually implemented in the company's day-to-day operations or whether they only exist on paper.

Why another standard?

"We Care is intended to fill a gap," says Robert Hermanowski, managing director of FIBL Germany, the standard's sponsor. Organic and Faitrade certifications refer to individual products, while EMAS certification for the environmental management system only refers to classic ecological criteria at the site itself. "We Care takes a look at ecological and social issues along the entire supply chain," explains Hermanowski. He also says that the standard does not refer to individual products, but to the company's sustainability management. High-quality certificates such as organic and Fairtrade are included in the assessment.

We Care and fair prices?

In the area of supply chain management, the standard defines how a company must take, document and implement responsibility along the supply chain. The criteria require rules for everyday procedures as well as for immediate measures that must be taken if social, environmental or animal welfare standards are violated in the supply chain.

The criteria include "long-term cooperation based on partnership" as well as "fair pricing that enables suppliers to develop." The company should also check at regular intervals "whether the prices it pays for raw materials fairly reflect the prevailing economic conditions. The standard does not specify more concrete requirements or, for example, fixed targets for how living prices are defined and by when they are to be paid.

First experiences of Lebensbaum and Alnatura

Lebensbaum and Alnatura tested the standard in advance and underwent an audit according to its rules. Both brands passed the pilot certification at the "higher level". At the presentation of We Care at the digital Biofach, Henning Osmers-Rentzsch (Lebensbaum) and Manon Haccius (Alnatura) emphasized that the audit process reflected where the company could still improve. They felt that the effort required for We Care certification was easily manageable, as many documents and data were already available.

One of the foundations for Alnatura's sustainability certification is the Alnatura Policy for Social Standards, which has been in effect since 2014. This policy defines requirements for manufacturing partners who purchase and process raw materials for Alnatura products in countries with difficult political, legal, social and economic conditions. In accordance with this policy, discrimination, unfair payment or precarious working conditions are not tolerated for any of the Alnatura products.

The external certification takes place every three years, but the auditor comes to the company every year to check some core criteria. In addition to the two companies, six other companies - Walter Lang GmbH, Peter Riegel Weinimport, Prima Vera Naturkorn, Tradin Organic, Midsona and Bohlsener Mühle - are certified or registered for the audit.

We Care or supply chain law?

At the presentation, Robert Hermanowski referred explicitly to the Supply Chain Act, which the German government agreed on last week after much wrangling and which is now being debated again following a letter of complaint from the State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Ulrich Nußbaum.

The objective is comparable: to comply with social and environmental standards along the supply chain for the benefit of people and the environment. While the law primarily addresses large corporations, We Care is aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises and is intended only for the food industry. In addition, he said, the standard shows how demanding criteria can be implemented in practice. "We Care is a standard for companies that have set out on their own path," says Hermanowski.

Certified companies may use the seal in their corporate communications. Only companies that have achieved the higher certification level may also print it on products - and only on organic food.


About the standard

We Care is a label for sustainable corporate and supply chain management. The standard formulates holistic requirements for sustainability and offers companies a certification system for this purpose. We Care is sponsored by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) Germany.

Download We Care labelling standard here


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