Need to know

A Guide To Consumer Labels and What They Mean To You

Would you like to know your UTZ from your SASSI and yourMSC from your FairTrade? Well read on to find out why these and other eco-certifications are going a long way to shifting consumer choice towards products that use resources that can be renewed and encourage better farming methods for both the land and the people who work it.


The UTZ certification is essentially an endorsement similar to the Fair Trade label, which communicates to consumers that the product they are consuming is grown on ‘sustainable’ farms that follow UTZ’s strict guidelines. By providing farmers with the skills and knowledge to manage their farms and business more sustainably, UTZ acts on improving the commodity foods supply chain significantly.
UTZ focuses on certification of Coffee, Cocoa and Tea and is dedicated to scaling up sustainable farming in these areas. Farmers that participate in the UTZ program are trained on locally specific mechanisms for better farming methods and despite being focused on farmers, UTZ’s offers much to producers and consumers too, giving piece of mind and traceability of products back to their original source.
The World Wildlife Fund of South Africa (WWF SA) is partnering with UTZ in launching a Rooibos Tea certification programme for South African farmers and farm cooperatives who farm the increasingly lucrative indigenous plant.


Fairtrade is an ethical certification and any product that carries the Fairtrade Certification Mark has met the rigorous Fairtrade Standards. These are to focus on improving labour and living conditions for farming communities and on promoting a way of farming that doesn’t harm either people or the environment.
Dating back to the 1960s, Fairtrade started with small initiatives by mostly faith-based organisations and social entrepreneurs, who wanted to make a difference in developing countries by buying their products in an ethical manner. This included paying fairer prices and establishing direct trading partnerships with producers, thereby sharing knowledge and information on production, market and quality requirements.
Today Fairtrade is the world’s most trusted ethical certification system. There are thousands of Fairtrade certified companies in the world (producers, manufacturers and traders) that make a difference every day through Fairtrade trading. A full list of the products that include coffee, tea, cotton, chocolate and wine please visit their website.

Fairtrade fact –

Did you know? Second to water tea is the most popular drink in the world with approximately 15 000 cups being drunk per second!

South Africa was the first emerging market to actively promote Fairtrade products.
Since launching the first products in 2010, Fairtrade sales have been tripling every year.

MSC-Marine Stewardship Council: Certified sustainable sea food

This Global non-profit organisation established in 1997 has one mission and that is to transform the fishing industry out of the current slash and burn mentality to one that enables fish stocks to thrive and still offer seafood as a viable source of protein. The great big sea is a place not many are connected to unless they live a coastal life, so the idea that the fish are ‘running out’ may not be top of mind., However there science behind fish stock collapse and the high sea piracy involving illegal fishing off coastlines that do not have military might, are ensuring certain fish stocks (think Blue Fin Tuna) are on the brink of extinction. The fishing industry supports two billion people and we have seen the economic fall ot of an indisutry collapse here in South Africa on the West Coast of the Cape. This is why thie MSC certification is going to grow in relevance and be a driver toward better fishing practises. There is a rigorous environmental standard provides a mechanism to recognise and reward good practice of those fisheries who adopt saner fishing techniques.

•Internationally recognised as the fisheries ecolabel that is most consistent with best practice
There are over 21000 products certified in 104 countries and you can find 59 of them in South Africa, the website has a list of them, available here:

Key fish stocks are being destroyed… The MSC offers a unique and inspiring contribution to solving this global threat” Sir David Attenborough

Biodiversity and Wine Initiative

The Cape Floral Kingdom is the richest most diverse plant kingdom on the planet. It is also the tiniest and yet provides the space for almost 95% of the country’s wine production. Due to extreme biodiversity loss in the unique renosterveld the wine industry developed a conservation partnership with the Botanical Society of South Africa, Conservation International and The Green Trust, which led to the establishment of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI). Over 126 000 hectares of indigenous vegetation have been conserved by BWI producers since its inception and there will be more to be added as for every hectare under vineyard, an additional hectare of natural vegetation is committed to conservation. If you drink wine then this is the label to look for first.

To obtain an updated copy of BWI pocket guide & wine list go to

Badger friendly honey

This initiative promotes badger-friendly methods of beehive protection in order to carry the eco label. All that the bee- keeper needs to do is change the height of the hive and move it out of reach of the honey badger. Far simpler than waging war on the badgers and a great initiative to conserve these remarkable creatures that are a vital part of the ecosystem.



Do you buy products because they carry an eco-certification?

Do let me know, email

By Melissa Baird