ESG Principles

CSAF members have jointly developed and adopted a set of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) lending principles that reinforce our commitment to supporting small-scale farmers and serving their financial needs.

The principles guide each of us during our respective due diligence processes and help us determine whether a business has socially and environmentally responsible practices that are likely to generate positive impact on — and do no harm to — rural livelihoods and the environment.

1. Exclusion of Harmful ESG Practices. We commit to not finance borrowers engaged in ESG practices that are harmful or destructive to human wellbeing or the environment.

Learn more about specific exclusion practices.

      • Production or activities involving harmful or exploitative forms of forced labor and/or harmful child labor, as defined by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
      • Infringement on the rights of indigenous peoples or local communities, including activities that impinge on lands owned or claimed by indigenous peoples without their documented consent
      • Production or activities that are not in compliance with national regulation on minimum wage and working conditions
      • Production or trade in any product or activity deemed illegal under host country laws, international conventions and agreements, including without limitation, wildlife or products regulated under CITES;
      • Production or trade in, or use of, any product or activity subject to international phase-outs or bans, specifically items on the Fairtrade Prohibited Materials List (POP, PIC, PAN 12 “Dirty Dozen”, WHO 1a and 1b, EU banned substances and EPA banned pesticides)
      • Production or trade in weapons and munitions
      • Production or trade in alcoholic beverages, other than beer and wine
      • Production or trade in tobacco
      • Gambling, casinos, or betting
      • Production or trade in radioactive materials
      • Production or trade in unbonded asbestos fibers
      • Commercial logging operations in primary tropical moist forest


2. Pursuit of Positive ESG Practices. We finance borrowers that demonstrate positive ESG practices that can benefit farmers, workers, their communities, and the environment.

Learn how we prioritize borrowers that prioritize impact.

In addition to passing CSAF members’ internal integrity checks for shareholders and management, eligible borrowers should commit to sound socially and environmentally responsible business practices and positively contribute to the economic development of low-income populations in rural areas by:

  • Sourcing from and improving market access for small-scale producers; and/or
  • Providing high-value products or services to small-scale producers, (e.g., higher prices, credit; technical assistance); and/or
  • Employing rural or disadvantaged populations; and/or
  • Fostering women’s empowerment or gender inclusion practices; and/or
  • Increasing the availability of affordable, nutritious foods for local consumers; and/or
  • Serving as responsible environmental stewards through operations and/or sourcing practices

3. Promotion of Continuous Improvement. We promote continuous improvement of ESG practices among our borrowers, individual lenders and our broader community.

Learn how we promote continuous improvement at all levels.

    • For borrowers: We are in the early stages of exploring how we can work together to help common borrowers improve their ESG practices.
    • For individual lenders: Each member is responsible for making adjustments or improvements to their own ESG due diligence process in order to uphold the common set of ESG lending principles.
    • For our industry: CSAF members participate in joint ESG due diligence trainings for loan officers and credit analysts, and we share insights from each others’ experience.

CSAF members commit to following a set of due diligence procedures that help to identify both likely positive impacts and violations of our ESG standards. These include but are not limited to field visits and Know Your Customer (KYC) checks. We apply a “reasonableness” standard in verifying borrowers’ alignment with our ESG standards, recognizing it is only feasible to visit a subset of small-scale farms affiliated with a business.