Regenerative Organic Certified™ Launched! Now What?

Agriculture & Climate

Climate-smart agriculture can no longer be considered an afterthought in terms of federal strategies to combat climate change. The science supports the abundant connections between soil health and carbon storage, climate resiliency, and healthy food systems. We need to diminish, if not entirely eliminate, the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that raise our GHG emissions, harm our biodiversity, contaminate our air and waters, and poison our communities.

We need to make clear, calculated changes to our food and fiber systems to make regenerative organic the new model. If we adopt regenerative organic practices on more farms, we’ll see improvements to soil health, the well-being of animals, farmers, workers, and the climate itself.

Consumers who are not intimately connected to farming — but are interested in making a positive impact with their purchases — need a way to verify that a product is responsible and ethical. Faced with dozens of labels in the grocery aisle, consumers can look for the ROC seal and instantly feel good about what they’re buying.

By purchasing foods labeled ROC, individuals can connect with a full suite of important values implemented on the farm level. Not only does their ROC purchase help preserve the environment and natural resources, but it also enhances carbon sequestration, signifies the fair treatment of animals, and represents the ethical treatment of farmworkers. This is what sets ROC apart from other certifications. By choosing ROC products, consumers can know at-a-glance that their purchase makes a positive impact on the farm at every level: environmentally, ethically, and socially.

Background, Pilot Program & The Covid Years

Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) is a revolutionary new certification for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients that assures shoppers that their purchase makes a positive impact at every level: environmentally, ethically, and socially. ROC farms and products meet the highest standards in three pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. ROC is overseen by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA).

The ROA is a group of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness. Founded by the Rodale Institute, Dr. Bronner’s, and Patagonia, other members of the alliance include Compassion in World Farming, Fair World Project, and the Textile Exchange. The ROA was established to continuously review and update the ROC Framework.

At the ROA, we promote farming practices that restore and build soil, ensure animal welfare, and end unfair conditions for farmers and farmworkers. In doing so, we’re creating long-term solutions to some of the biggest issues of our time, including the climate crisis, factory farming, and fractured rural economies. We exist to heal a broken system, repair a damaged planet, and empower farmers and eaters to create a better future through regenerative organic agriculture.

We also established ROC to protect the term “regenerative,” which our founders perceived to be in danger of greenwashing from corporate interests. We wanted to create a high-bar standard to demonstrate and clarify what regenerative can and should be: a holistic type of agriculture that regenerates resources and considers all players in the farm system, from the soil microbiome to the animals to the workers. We believe “regenerative” and “organic” should always go together, so we created ROC to make sure they’d always be linked.

We conducted the Pilot Program with 19 farms and brands in seven countries producing commodities as diverse as dairy, mangoes, and cereal grains. Each farm met with an auditor who analyzed the farm operations against the ROC standards as they were first written. Afterwards, farm participants were invited to provide feedback including “deviations,” or requests for changes to the standard based on their region and their operation. We finished the pilot officially in early 2020 and released the revised framework in June 2020. Revisions were considered and implemented by specialty Task Forces compromised of experts related to each pillar: soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Several brands who participated in the pilot received ROC status and the first ROC products entered the marketplace in summer 2020.

Many of the changes that were implemented provide clarification of the language and requirements of the Framework. The Framework was adjusted to better adapt to implementation in various climates, geographic regions, and crop/animal varieties. The two largest changes that were made were the development of a species-specific animal welfare criteria for the dairy industry and a criteria for processors.


  • 2017: Founders formed collective vision for future of agriculture
  • 2018: Began work with NSF to make foundational criteria of framework
  • 2019: Launched a pilot program with 19 textile and food growers
  • 2020: With pilot feedback, ROA launched ROC in the fall — a challenging time, for sure! More below.
  • 2021: brought on far more auditors on site to certify farms
  • 2022: ROC continues to expand our certified farms, licensed brands, and certifying body + auditor network.
ROA audits are performed by accredited third party organic certifying bodies. When a grower applies to ROC, they will be paired with the appropriate certifying body in their region. The most up-to-date list of CBs can be found at

Why Can’t I Find ROC Products Yet?

The ROA did not publicly launch ROC until late 2020 — so our certification is quite young. Launching a certification in COVID has been challenging, to say the least. ROA faced setbacks with network employment (i.e. auditors, certifying bodies), supply chains, and scaling our own small team.

Because the supply chain is not built out just yet, this means that certifying multi-ingredient products (3 or more ingredients) is currently quite difficult. For brands who have a product with one or two ingredients, ROC will be much more attainable. Even though ROC will be difficult to attain in the first few years for those brands that have multi-ingredient products, this should not dissuade brands from beginning the conversation or process with ROC. ROC wants to have a dialogue with any organic brand, even if certification may not be likely right away.

What’s Next?

How Can I Support?

Author Profile

Elizabeth Whitlow

Regenerating the living crust of the Earth has been Elizabeth Whitlow’s mission since she was first exposed in the 1990s to the harmful practices of industrial agriculture and the power of building thriving food systems. Now, as the Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, Elizabeth is overseeing the revolutionary certification program, Regenerative Organic Certified™.

See all stories by Elizabeth Whitlow