UTZ Certified

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Not to be confused with Utz Quality Foods, Inc..
UTZ Certified
Type Non-profit organization
Industry Product certification, Sustainability
Founded Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2002)
Headquarters Amsterdam, Netherlands
Key people Han de Groot, Executive Director
Employees 65 (2013)

UTZ Certified is a label and program for sustainable farming of agricultural products launched in 2002, for coffee, tea, cocoa, and other products. It was formerly known as Utz Kapeh, meaning 'Good Coffee' in the Mayan language Quiché. On 7 March 2007, the Utz Kapeh Foundation officially changed its name and logo to UTZ Certified.[1] UTZ Certified is a foundation for the worldwide implementation of a standard for responsible coffee, cocoa, tea and rooibos farming and sourcing. UTZ certified cooperatives, estate farms and producer groups comply with the Code of Conduct for the respective products.[2] This Code is a set of criteria for sustainable and professional coffee growing, which includes socially and environmentally appropriate coffee growing practices, and efficient farm management.

UTZ Certified products are traceable from grower to end product manufacturers (e.g., in coffee this is the roaster); the foundation operates a web-based track-and-trace system, showing the buyers of UTZ certified products links to the certified source(s). Some coffee brands and retailers also provide their customers with this transparency through online coffee tracers. UTZ certified coffee is sold in almost 50 consuming countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, UK, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Japan, USA and Canada. UTZ Certified coffee producers are located in Latin America, Asia and Africa. With an expanding range of programs for agricultural products, like cocoa, tea, rooibos tea and the traceability services for palm oil and cotton UTZ Certified has a presence in a growing number of producing and consuming countries.

Code of Conduct[edit]

The UTZ certification program is based on the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct:[3] a set of social and environmental criteria for responsible coffee-growing practices and efficient farm management. Coffee producers who are UTZ certified comply with this code. The Code of Conduct version 2009[2] is based on the international ILO Conventions and good agricultural practices. The Code has been developed in a broad stakeholder process and therefore widely accepted.

The certification system does not require producers to comply with the full code of conduct standards from the start, but is based on a model of continuous improvement. Producers have to comply with core safety and quality standards from year one. Additional control points are added in the following years.

Summary of the Code of Conduct[edit]

The criteria of the UTZ CERTIFIED Code of Conduct[3] fall into three categories:

Good Agricultural & Business practices
  • monitoring business processes
  • record-keeping of fertilizers & agro-chemicals
  • good housekeeping practices
  • workers trained properly
  • implementation of accident and emergency procedures
  • implementation of hygiene rules and practices
  • traceability of coffee
  • annual internal inspections
Social Criteria
  • workers are protected by national laws and ILO conventions regarding age, working hours, pensions, working conditions, collective bargaining and safety
  • workers receive training in their own language about safe handling of chemicals
  • workers receive protective clothing for the use of chemicals
  • access to health care for the workers and their families
  • access to education for children
  • access to decent housing
  • access to clean drinking water
  • freedom of cultural expression
Environmental Criteria


Independent, third party auditors make annual inspections to ensure coffee producers comply with the Code of Conduct.[2]

Certification Body

A Certification body (CB) is an independent, third-party certifier with ISO 65[dubious ] accreditation.[4][not in citation given] When approved by UTZ CERTIFIED, the CBs conduct annual certification inspections of coffee producers to determine whether they comply with the UTZ CERTIFIED Code of Conduct[2] and Chain of Custody requirements.[5]

Trained Agronomists

An UTZ Certified trained agronomist is a technical consultant specifically trained in assisting producers to comply with the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct.[2] Trained agronomists can advise on practical implementation of elements of the Code and give directions on improvement of efficiency in farm management.


Coffee with an UTZ certification has added value in the sense that it assures buyers that their coffee has been produced according to an internationally recognized standard for responsible production, i.e. according to the UTZ Certified Code of Conduct. Buyers recognize this extra value by paying coffee growers a price premium for UTZ-certified coffee. An UTZ certification empowers coffee growers to negotiate a better price for their product. They have access to information about average prices and premiums for the all the coffees sold as UTZ Certified. Furthermore, twice a year a Supply & Demand Analysis is published, where the major trends from the past and the expectations for the future are presented. This publication is an important source of information both for producers and buyers.

The price for UTZ certified coffee is determined in the negotiation process between buyer and seller. UTZ Certified does not interfere in price negotiations. In contrast to Fair Trade, no minimum purchase price is set.


UTZ certified coffee is traceable from producer to roaster. UTZ CERTIFIED uses two elements to create traceability:

  • The UTZ CERTIFIED web-based traceability system
  • Chain of Custody requirements
Web-based traceability system

When an UTZ certified producer sells his products (e.g. coffee, cocoa, tea) to a registered UTZ Certified buyer, the product is announced in the UTZ Certified web-based system. By doing so the seller announces when he is shipping what amount to whom. The buyer then gets notified and needs to confirm this in the traceability system. UTZ Certified assigns a unique tracking number to this lot. At the end of the supply chain, the end product manufacturer uses the unique tracking number to know his product credibly links to a certified source. Some brands use this unique tracking system to make the product traceable for their consumers.

Chain of Custody

To enhance the guarantee that a consumer product with an UTZ Certified logo does indeed credibly link to an UTZ certified producer, the UTZ Certified program contains Chain of Custody requirements. This is a set of chain-wide administrative, logistical and technical requirements for traceability. These requirements include criteria for separation of UTZ Certified products and conventional/non-UTZ Certified products, and keeping records of direct suppliers and buyers.


UTZ Certified partners with / RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil; since 2007) and with / BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) to implement the codes of these programs into their respective supply chains, with a strong focus on using the web-based traceability system of UTZ Certified .

Cocoa Program[edit]

On 10 October 2007, the Cocoa Program was launched. UTZ Certified is cooperating with Ahold, Cargill, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé and ECOM to develop and implement a mainstream certification and traceability system for sustainable cocoa. Solidaridad and Oxfam Novib are supporting the initiative. Other companies and NGOs are invited to join and support the program. In 2010 the first UTZ Certified cocoa products reached the market. By now, over 140,000 cocoa farmers from 14 countries are UTZ Certified, cocoa products with UTZ label are sold in more than 50 countries and supply has increased by 150% from 2010 to 2011.

Tea Program & Rooibos Program[edit]

UTZ Certified also introduced a program with corresponding code of conduct for tea and a program for rooibos. UTZ Certified is now focusing on upscaling these tea programs by motivating industry to commit to sustainably farmed tea and by training farmers to become certified.

Palm Oil[edit]

UTZ Certified has developed, implemented and is currently managing the traceability system for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.[6] This system was launched in December 2008.


UTZ Certified has developed, implemented and is currently managing the traceability system for the Better Cotton Initiative.[7] This system was launched in August 2010.


Utz Certified is funded by donations/subsidies and fees charged to users of its traceability system. In 2011, subsidies amounted to €1.41 million, fees to €3.88 million, and unspecified contributions of €261.709.[8]


UTZ Certified certification, like the Rainforest Alliance coffee certification program, has been criticized as it offers producers no minimum or guaranteed price for their crop. Some consider UTZ certified producer organizations to be vulnerable to the volatility of the coffee market.[9] The price difference and the fact companies do not pay any marketing costs for logo use, makes the UTZ Certified label considerably cheaper than Fairtrade for companies and farmers interested in tapping the ethical market.[citation needed]

Michael Conroy, an independent consultant on certification for sustainable development, criticized UTZ Certified in his 2007 book Branded!: "the environmental standards of UTZ Certified are far weaker than those of either Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance". UTZ Certified's standards for example, explicitly announces that genetically modified coffee plants, though not at present available, would be allowable so long as farmers obey local regulations on their use. Any kind of chemical fertilizer may be used as long as an external, technically qualified advisor has determined the quantity of fertilizer to be used. No chemical pesticides or fungicides banned in the European Union, the U.S. or Japan may be used, but any that are acceptable in those three markets are acceptable on coffee farms if they are applied "according to the label".[10]

In July 2012, German magazine "Ökotest" published an article labeling Utz Certified, among others, as unfair, due to a lack of pre-financing and guaranteed minimum purchase prices.[11] Utz Certified has responded to this, stating that the foundation does not consider its standards fair trade, nor that it claims that they are, while maintaining that its standards contribute positively to sustainable development of tropical farming communities.[12]

UTZ Certified has also been criticized with regard to its standards for remuneration of hired labor - it only requires that national laws must be followed. In addition, several observers have criticized the program for its lack of crop pre-financing and producer support.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]