How We Grow

2019 May/June How We Grow

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18 AROUND THE WORLD CASP Achieves New Level of Global Standards The effort to gain more recognition for the California almond industry's continued commitment to sustainability 1 hit a major milestone in early 2018 with the launch of the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) Supply Chain pilot program. The pilot program's first objective is to allow growers to share data with their processors on a consolidated basis. Building on the results of the pilot, the Supply Chain program's long-term objective is to act as a channel through which growers' sustainability achievements may be better communicated to almond buyers using statistically valid CASP data. Partnership bolsters CASP awareness To increase buyer awareness and acceptance of CASP, the Almond Board of California (ABC) entered into a collaboration with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, a global membership organization made up of large food and beverage companies. In this partnership, SAI Platform's Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) Version 2.1, which consists of 112 questions on good farming practices, was compared with over 200 assessment practices across CASP, plus California regulations, to establish CASP's alignment with the FSA. SureHarvest, the organization ABC has partnered with to support CASP over the last 10 years, and which is now approved by SAI Platform to validate FSA comparisons, carried out the project on behalf of the Almond Board and broader almond industry. Following the presentation of the results from the comparative analysis between CASP and FSA practices, SAI Platform recognized CASP at a "FSA 2.1 gold" equivalency level. CASP also became the first nut- specific sustainability program to be benchmarked by the FSA program, and it is still only one of two U.S.- based programs that has achieved a "gold" equivalency status. "We realized there was an opportunity with SAI Platform for growers to get credit for completing CASP assessments," said Julie Adams, ABC's vice president of Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs. "Benchmarking our program against a globally accepted sustainable sourcing program shows buyers in the supply chain that our priorities are already aligned with theirs and gives us a common language to talk about sustainable production practices." Ultimately, that common language and understanding is the reason that ABC chose the SAI Platform's FSA program as the best way to leverage the industry's existing and ongoing efforts and to communicate CASP's value to buyers. "One of the key factors in our decision to partner with SAI Platform on the FSA program is that it allowed us to not only rely on CASP, which is focused on practices that are relevant to growing almonds in California, but it also gives credit to the fact that growers are operating in California's rigorous regulatory environment," said Gabriele Ludwig, Ph.D., director, Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, ABC. Pilot program delivers value to growers Growers currently participating in CASP are now able to generate a report that shows them how their practices compare to the FSA. From there, growers have the option to share this information, and the broader results from CASP assessments, with their processors on a voluntary basis. If enough growers opt-in and choose to share their CASP data with their processor (on a consolidated basis), that processor can receive a summarized report on how the practices utilized by their grower base compare with state averages. This information is very important to processors as they work with buyers and share information about their product. Going forward, the FSA benchmarking initiative will also allow the California almond industry to see how growers' practices relate to buyers' supplier sustainability requirements. This, in turn, could eventually eliminate some of the duplication of supply chain reporting that is currently required of processors. "This benchmarking with the FSA program should reduce the amount of different forms a grower or handler needs to fill out for different buyers in relation to sustainability," Ludwig said. "Furthermore, if growers want to see how their practices compare to an international assessment, they "Benchmarking CASP against the FSA program should reduce the amount of different forms that a grower or handler needs to fill out for different buyers in relation to sustainability." – Gabriele Ludwig

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