Invite To Join CERA – The Conscious and Ethical Retailers and Consumer Alliance

join the revolution
The Conscious and Ethical Retailers, Producers and  Consumer Alliance (CERA)
Vision & Mission:
CERA is a network of integrity to strengthen the SA Food Revolution by protecting it from fraud and misleading claims. It is a space where the green revolution that we all participate in is defined and protected in a collaboration between all participants – consumers, ethical retailers, green businesses, sustainable farmers, food artisans, activist organisations and NGO’s who all contribute towards the creation of an alternate food system. 
Background:
Through dealing with a fraud that occurred in this space, I had several conversations with Robert Miller about the need to create an alliance to ensure that this sacred place of all of ours – the SA Food Revolution  – is protected from it ever happening again.
As a result of those conversations and lessons learnt, together with identifying further fraud occurring here we decided it was time to birth CERA.
As the SA food revolution has strengthened due to various countrywide initiatives – the growth of sustainable farmers, the growth and success of conscious consumer groups, the growing organisation of activist groups, the growing numbers of educated activist consumers and the rise of ethical businesses driven by activists – it has become an attractive space for green-washing and fraud. This  threatens the work of those who stand here in integrity and I believe is also set to spread as the sector grows, unless something is done to protect it.
We have learnt that whilst we have adequate labelling laws to protect the space from fraud supported by the Consumer Protection Act, there are not enough government resources or expertise to enforce them.
I believe that we all need to self govern into a grass-roots, all encompassing alliance of incorruptible ethical retailers and businesses, conscious consumers, sustainable farmers, constructive consumer action groups, NGO’s and farmer organisations to both define and protect the space. Many peers and colleagues that we have interacted with in this sector have agreed that this is necessary.
We also believe that we need to all lead this revolution and demonstrate how incorruptible and ethical trade can work as a model to prove that collaboration is not a weakness to the conventionally accepted idea of individual strength as a competitive advantage. Collaboration and transparency can be equally viable as strong business models and structures to aid the growth of all. This alliance will demonstrate the power of collaborative growth that benefits all. The typical adage of conventional capitalism believes that wealth occurs as a result of individual strength built on collective exploitation. The new conscious capitalist believes that collaboration to strengthen all – creates more which benefits more. This is an alternative form of collaboration that is offered as an alternative to the old school method of competition at the expense of growth of the whole sector. Within CERA – all members will benefit from the sharing of collective information, resources, time and energy to benefit the whole food revolutioin space which we believe in turn, will benefit everybody who contributes towards it.
The South African Food Revolution – Context
In South Africa there are various small businesses, retailers, consumers, farmers, food producers, activist organisations and consumer action groups involved in shaping the SA Food Revolution. 
This revolution can be broadly defined as a space where we create alternatives to the dominant conventional food system that does not support sustainable farming or the selling of whole, nutritious food.
Within this space, we have businesses, activist organisations, conscious consumers, sustainable farmers and food producers that represent various philosophy’s of sustainable eating and address the broad and varying needs of the conscious green consumer, broadly representative of:

  • Organic Food
  • Biodynamic Food
  • Small-scale  Farmers
  • Local Food
  • Natural and Whole Food
  • Vegan Food
  • Gluten Free Food
  • Slow Food
  • Free Range and Pastured Animal Food
  • Non Conveyor Belt Food
  • Banting Friendly Food
  • Artisanal Traditional Food
  • Non GM Food
  • Paleo Friendly Food
  • Aquaculture
  • Fish and SeaFood
  • Fair / Ethical Trade

There would need to be an acceptance of the fact that whilst all the philosophy’s don’t always agree with each other and some have marked differences of opinion, each contributes towards the food revolution by creating an alternative food system and is important and necessary in this regard. Utter respect for another’s different point of view will be a non-negotiable prerequisite for CERA member behaviour.
The South African food system has been shaped and dominated by a small monopoly of 4 retail chains. This has affected the range of foods available to South Africans and has made the food sector a conglomeration of commercial interests.
Conveyor belt and ‘big food’ has dominated the experience of what people have had available to eat and left most with only easy access to processed and refined food,  conventionally farmed fresh produce and feedlot animal products.
As health has deteriorated along with the health of our ecology and the consumer has become more educated about the relationship between diet, nutrition and the effect on our ecology – various initiatives have sprung up in an attempt to create an alternative food system that links the consumer to nutrient dense food from sustainable farms.
Challenges:

  • Lack of adequate government regulation of this sector
  • Lack of cohesion between farmers, consumers, retailers, NGO’s, activist organisations and consumer action groups
  • Lack of education and engagement on farming issues between farmers, retailers and consumers
  • Lack of constructive agreement about what is meaningful and feasible in the space, lack of meaningful dialogue
  • The challenges of small businesses to fund the auditing of suppliers, farms and artisans
  • A heightened demand to provide traceability to farms and to the source of ingredients yet minimal resources and lower margins to fund
  • An uneducated consumer base whose ignorance is exploited through labelling fraud
  • Lack of adequate government enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act
  • *to be expanded

Strengths

  • A growing conscious consumer base committed to supporting sustainable farms, artisans and producers
  • A growing conscious consumer group who is educated and has the ability to mobilize information and activity to shape the food system
  • A growing network of small ethical businesses that are stimulating the growth and viability of small sustainable farmers and artisans
  • A growing network of effective consumer action groups strengthening through support and focus
  • A growing network of food activists shaping a new form of retail right for the space
  • Social media that allows the dissemination of information and the mobilisation of like minds quickly
  • A clear and coherent labeling law policy supported by the Consumer Protection Act

The CERA Structure
CERA will consist of a country-wide group of working cells in each category that contributes towards the SA Food Revolution as per the groups outlined above and any others that need to be included.
Each working cell for each category – will contain a group that is made up of equal representation from a Consumer Protection Act representative, consumers, member retail, farmers and/or expertise relevant to the topic.
Within each working cell – a dialogue will occur – under strict guidelines to manage constructive debate about what each category needs to mean in terms of CERA’s working definition before it can be a CERA approved product, retailer, organisation, farmer or producer.
Once this process is finalised, CERA will have guidelines and protocols and best practice definitions for labelling and farming terms where relevant under each category.
CERA Membership
CERA will be be made up of conscious and ethical members in groups –  consumers, member ethical retailers, sustainable producers, humane farming input, Consumer Protection Act and labelling expertise, topic experts, relevant activist organisations and consumer action groups.
Membership criteria in each category will be decided amongst the first group members during the first facilitated launch workshops.
The outcome of that process will result in membership forms designed for each category.
To join CERA as an allied member, each interest will need to complete the membership form that the group has agreed to.
Democratic processes set within the structure will then approve or reject new members.
Once each working cell has a full and equal representation of retail, consumer, producer, farmer, CPA expertise and topic expertise, the working cell will become viable.
Once the cell is viable, all new farmers, producers, ethical businesses and produce entering the space under each relevant category applies to the working cell for membership. The working cells will have defined what they accept as CERA approved in each category, prior.
The relevant working cell is then responsible for visiting the new producer, farm or organisation and verifying the information. Once this is done, the working cell then approves or rejects the new applicant.
A member retailer does not permit any new products or farm into their store or business until CERA gives the go ahead. The retailer or allied business hands over the control about what is an accepted CERA product – to the CERA alliance.
Equally there would need to be acceptance that the food revolution requires a different form of capitalism where transparency around supply is a non-negotiable prerequisite for membership.
A definition of ‘conscious and ethical capitalism’ conscious and ethical consumerism’ and ‘conscious and ethical food production’ will be our first point of call and a part of the outcomes of the first launch workshops so that we carefully weed out those that may approach this group to exploit it for information and so that all upfront – subscribe to a form of transparency and commitment that is meaningful.
I don’t expect this will be easy and we need to expect sharp differences of opinion but upfront have a vision that reminds us of the larger goal when we disagree.
CERA – Member Code of Conduct 
We must approach this upfront with a commitment to not allow differences of opinion to collapse this initiative for the sake of the good of the whole and the greater vision.
A tight code of conduct that protects the group from conflict that polarises, creates division and threatens to deter the alliance from its mission to protect the food revolution space from fraud and to strengthen the viability of sustainable farmers and businesses, will be set to manage those that bring behaviour that typically causes conflict without resolution.
The code of conduct criteria will be a facilitated dialogue at the first workshop where all involved will be involved in setting it.
We will define these together as we move forward, for category – retailer, consumer, farmer, artisan, food producer, CERA partners, activist organisation and consumer action groups. If you join as a consumer, you will be part of a working group to help agree and define these.
Members will be required to commit to:

  • Transparency
  • Sharing of information and collaboration
  • Contributing towards working groups to define the associations principles and standards
  • Contributing in terms of time, energy and resources to conduct farm and supplier visits and relevant admin
  • Contribution towards the admin associated with keeping a transparent and open directory of farm and artisan information
  • Education – a commitment to ongoing education of the whole association
  • *to be expanded

Funding:
To be decided.
Initial Ideas:

  • Time and energy is the greatest input I believe for this to work
  • All labeling must be guided by the Consumer Protection Act and the ACT R146 regulations for labelling.
  • Like all other associations that look after various food sectors like the Dairy Board and Red Meat Association, we could add a small levy on every product sold through the associated retailers and associated vendors
    • We could have collection boxes in associated stores for consumers who want to contribute towards this
    • A R1 levy for example on all produce would probably be enough to support the administrative costs of this group
    • *to be discussed and ideas expanded

I think the size of this is going to an initial weakness as much as a strength. We will need to break up into country and area wide cells. 
Ideas for Partnership  Organisations who will be invited:

  • Humane Farming International
  • South African Organic Sector Association
  • Grass Consumer Action Group
  • PGS South Africa
  • IFOAM – International Federation of Organic and Agricultural Movements
  • The Noakes Foundation
  • African Centre for Biodiversity
  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Slow Food Youth Movement
  • The Biodynamic Association of South Africa
  • Grass Fed Meat SA
  • *to be expanded

Ethical and Conscious Retail and Green Business
Membership is open to any ethical retailer in the food revolution space that has demonstrated integrity and a commitment to ethics,  transparency and collaboration.
Conscious Consumers
All consumers who would like to participate in governing the green food sector and participating in decisions made about their food and who are prepared to dedicate time and resources towards a working cell are invited.
Consumer Action Groups
Consumer Action Groups that have demonstrated effective activism that speaks on behalf of consumer needs and wishes are invited.
Sustainable Farmers/ Food Producers and Food Artisans
All who contribute towards the SA Food Revolution are invited.
Activist Organisations
Activist organisations who have demonstrated success in standing for green revolution topics are all invited.
Sustainable Food Projects, Expertise and Associations
All who contribute towards the SA Food Revolution are invited.
Any group or initiative who wants to join their effort into an alliance to protect the food revolution from green washing, fraud and exploitation is invited.
Launch Workshops
To participate in the creation of this alliance – active involvement in the first launch workshops is essential. 
Much of the vision, structure and definition will be outlined and altered based on participant involvement, debate and feedback in the workshop sections. If you would like your voice included in this, it is important to attend the first launch workshop.
Dates:

  • Cape Town – 26 August 9:00 – 17:00
  • Johannesburg – 5 September 9:00 – 17:00
  • KZN – 9 September 9:00 – 17:00

Thereafter as a group, we will decide on next steps.
If you are not clear whether to attend the first launch workshop and need more clarity prior – please call me, not mail. I am not able to repeat information in written that has already been expressed here as I am running this outside of working hours whilst running a store and this is a non income generating activity that Robert Miller and I are doing for love and belief alone.
I also will not be able to answer questions in social media that has been covered in this document, it simply takes up too much time to repeat information – anybody interested will need to read the full draft proposal to get an idea of what the CERA alliance is.
For any further clarity please call me – 083 255 0861.
We will need somebody to volunteer to take full minutes of the workshop and type up the workshop outcomes under each section.
If anybody is happy to take this on, please let me know.
We will set up an administrative group amongst us once we are formed.
I look forward to meeting you at the workshop and believe that this will be the strongest alliance of incorruptible people fighting and working for food change in a way that benefits all.
It’s a tall task but one I think will be well worth it in the end.
Debbie Logan
 

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