2 min

Show You Care with Kiwa’s We Care Standard

Sustainability has been a buzzword for years and is an ever-evolving concept. The original definition limited sustainability to matters of the environment and natural resources, but over time, the meaning has broadened. Nowadays, embedded in most definitions of sustainability, we also find social equity and good governance concerns. 

It is in this wider understanding of sustainability that Kiwa’s We Care Standard takes its place. We Care is what we call a ‘corporate sustainability standard’ – a highly valued standard that measures a company’s entire management approach. Raoul Mancke, International Business Development for Sustainability/ESG Services at Kiwa, describes how it came about: “Through Kiwa’s involvement in organic certification in the food sector and our expertise in sustainability certifications, we connected with prominent organic food companies in Germany, Lebensbaum and Alnatura as well as the FiBL – Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture), a very well-known research institute. Lebensbaum and Alnatura wanted their entire operations evaluated, not just individual products, to show their engagement in reducing social and environmental risks along their value chain. In Germany, a supply chain due diligence law to reduce social and environmental risks came into force in January 2023, and the We Care certification can be used as evidence of compliance."

“Anticipating the legislative outcome, Kiwa and the organic food sector companies proactively worked on developing a holistic sustainability standard that covered a wide range of criteria. The result was We Care. It’s clear that Lebensbaum and Alnatura were frontrunners, now using the We Care certificate as evidence that they fulfill German legislation requirements and ESG prerequisites from other stakeholders.”

What it means to be holistically sustainable

Food production companies obtaining the We Care certification show sustainability along the entire supply chain. “My background is in life cycle assessment and specifically in carbon footprinting,” says Mancke. “There, I learned that the highest impact on environmental and social parameters is usually in the supply chain. Creating a more sustainable supply chain means making it transparent and pushing social and environmental standards for all the companies involved.”

We Care assesses four aspects:
  1. Corporate governance — Here, we look at how well sustainability principles are integrated into all management processes.
  2. Environmental management — How are activities such as energy demand and waste streams handled on each site in the chain? We look at the impact on biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Employee responsibility — In this area, we assess the employers’ responsibilities towards their employees. How are staff treated? Are employees’ working conditions and benefits fair? This is a particularly important standard to evaluate, as labor laws and their enforcement vary from country to country.
  4. Sustainable supply chain management — We establish if the company acts socially, sustainably, and fairly all the way from sourcing raw materials to distributing the final product.

Who qualifies to be We Care certified, and how do they benefit?

Any food company importing, processing, or producing food can become We Care certified. So too can companies that partly or exclusively have food produced by other companies, and companies that operate as wholesalers or retailers for their raw materials or finished products. Early recipients of the certification included Tradin Organic, Alnatura, and Lebensbaum.

“Certified companies can prove their compliance with relevant regulations and standards,” says Mancke. “In addition, the certification process includes a ‘double materiality’ analysis – a term that simply means an organization has determined which sustainability and ESG matters are material to both themselves and to their stakeholders. This yields a detailed report not only for certification but also for other reporting needs. So, when faced with inquiries, companies can share verified evidence with stakeholders without having to generate it from scratch.”

Another advantage of being We Care certified lies in the hiring of staff. Prospective employees of a We Care-certified company can be confident that the company’s labor practices are fair and aren’t just lip service. Discerning employees will also value being part of a company that has sustainability ethics at its heart.

Then there’s the achievement of being able to display the We Care logo, something that enhances reputation and credibility in the minds of consumers. “Certification is offered at two levels: basic and high. Those achieving a high level of certification gain the additional benefit of being able to use the We Care logo on their products for public communication purposes. We are working to establish the We Care logo as a widely recognized symbol. The objective is to enhance its visibility and significance as a symbol of commitment to sustainability,” says Mancke.

Apple processing.jpg

A certification that can be trusted

As a certification offering, We Care is supported by an advisory board comprising industry and trader participants and representatives from research and civil organizations. The advisory board meets twice a year to work on updating the We Care Standard, and relevant sustainability aspects are systematically considered. This ensures that there is continuous development in place to meet stringent sustainability standards. The standard is monitored by Germany’s FiBL – Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture).

“The We Care stamp of approval is highly credible, and achieving it is a rigorous process,” says Mancke. “But the benefits are numerous. It’s more than a tick-box exercise; it’s a genuine commitment to holistic sustainability.”

Kiwa’s Services in Food

When it comes to food safety, sustainability and social, but also other topics such as organic and supplier audits, we can support you with our broad service portfolio. Kiwa offers global certification and verification services to help you as part of the food chain (e.g. farmers, producers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers) to build customer confidence. Working with you, we design, audit and monitor protocols that provide assurance throughout the entire international food supply chain - from farm to fork.

Head to our website to learn more: www.kiwa.com/en/markets/food-feed-farm/