Small Producer’s Symbol (SPP)

Incorporating Social Sustainability and the Role of Certifications

Dietetic EducatorFoodservice
Menu ChangePolicy Change
Food PricesIndustrialized, Capitalist Systems

At a Glance:

  • SPP is “an intercontinental network of ecological small-producer organizations” with independent certification
  • Only 100% producer-driver collective for fairly traded and ecologically sustainable foods
  • This unique structure guarantees that prices are based on real cost of production and free of producer exploitation
  • Combines social and ecological sustainability criteria in one certification

Fair Trade Certifications

In a world where food supply chains increasingly stretch across the globe, buying foods produced closer to where they are consumed is one effective strategy for being able to trace, understand and choose supply chains that are more sustainable. Focusing menus on seasonal produce and local procurement are effective paths forward for contributing to local economies, supporting local production capacity and resulting food security, and facilitating transparency and accountability around production practices.

Some foods, however, can only be produced in certain ecological regions and parts of the world and can only be obtained through trade. For temperate countries these include coffee, cacao and sugar in addition to tropical fruits and vegetables. Third party certifications that establish standards and criteria around production practices and trade relationships are one strategy for tracing the environmental and social impacts and striving for sustainability of these foods across long distances where producers and consumers cannot interact directly. Many fair trade certifications exist (see ‘What Else?’ box) and it is important to understand their strengths and weaknesses in terms of standards and accountability.

Small Producer Symbol

The Small Producer Symbol (SPP) was launched in 2006. It is the only 100% producer-driven collective that provides independent certification for fairly traded and ecological products. SPP is the culmination of the evolution of various small producer networks and movements starting in the 1960s. It was created in response to the challenges and continuing inequities faced by small producers working to meet consumer-driven fair trade certifications. Without equal representation from and decision making power in the hands of producers, consumer-driven fair trade certifications may fail to represent producer perspectives, consider producer-specific challenges, and cover the real costs of production.

The Small Producers Symbol consists of 120 small producers’ organizations representing 50 million families across Latin America-Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Products from 30 countries are certified by SPP and sold in 50 consumer countries. SPP represents a simple but powerful shift in the mechanics of fair trade by centring producer voices and concerns in the process of determining what ‘fair’ prices and criteria are, while offering consumers traceability of products and transparency on production techniques and organizational structures.

As a producer-driven initiative, the SPP independent certification represents:

  1. Solidarity between organized small producers, committed companies and consumers
  2. High quality organic, agroecological and healthy products
  3. Prices based on real cost of production and free of exploitation
  4. Complete supply chain traceability
  5. Living income for producers

SPP strives to “build a local and global market that values the identity and the economic, social, cultural and ecological contributions of their products and organizations, in a relationship based on collaboration, trust and co-responsibility among men and women who are small producers, buyers and consumers.” (SPP, 2018)

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

Food for Thought
What aspects of social sustainability feel most relevant to your work?
What role can certifications play in helping your organization or community set and meet social sustainability targets?
How important does it feel to have producer voices equitably represented in determining certification criteria and standards?

Contact Information
WhatsApp: +52-1-55-6375-5572                    Telephone: +52-55-5264-7205
Website:             Email:
Address: Calzada de Tlalpan No. 3267 Int. 304, 3er piso, Santa Úrsula Coapa, Covoacán, C.P. 04650 CDMX, México