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In April a network of various European organic associations, inspection bodies and certifiers (Leading Organic Alliance, working group on social accountability) met in Sant’Onofrio, Calabria, to work jointly on the topic of social standards and social audits.

The meeting was part of what has become a two-year long working process on this subject. Naturland is contributing with now over ten years of experience in checking for conformity to social criteria.

Taking two test audits of two farms in Calabria as examples, wages, working hours and employment contracts were the main items scrutinised. Focus was also placed on the topic of discrimination. One of the two organisations which were surveyed in these examples was Carpe Naturam, a member of Naturland and a company specialising in the production of fruit and vegetables. Their suppliers are independent vegetable farmers and Biosybaris, a co-operative with over 80 members. In choosing Carpe Naturam, a very complex partner was selected, a producer, processor and packing facility for fruit and vegetables. The other organisation was GOEL, a co-operative specialising in the production of citrus fruits and olive oil. The audits were, so to speak, a test run to see what the monitoring of social standards looks like in practice. One of the participants was the inspector of ICEA, the Italian inspection body, who also inspects the Naturland farms in Calabria for compliance to its social standards on behalf of Naturland in the course of organic inspection.

Another item on the agenda was a meeting with SOS Rosarno, the human rights organisation which is campaigning for the rights of immigrants from Black Africa. In South Calabria (the area round Rosarno) and Apulia (the region round Foggia), a system employing “caporali” is still widespread. The “caporale” is an illegal agent supplying employers with workers. On most occasions he takes the workers to the fields himself, often overseeing them as they work and not infrequently also using force. This middleman keeps a large portion of the wages earned to pay for transport, food, water and accommodation. Often illegal workers, mainly migrants, are employed, who are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The talks with the NGO were especially important to gain an understanding of the actual situation in the region.

The Naturland social standards have been in place since 2005. This means that the social conditions prevailing on farms certified to the Naturland standards are also examined in the course of organic inspection. The social standards contain detailed requirements as to working conditions and social security of all the workers. Particular focus is placed on health and safety at the workplace.