Deep Dive: Rainforest Alliance

The main goal at Rainforest Alliance is to “create a more sustainable world by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities”. The Central-American-born initiative has now grown to operate sustainable projects in over 70 countries, whilst also having its own certificate program in sustainable agriculture. Over 4 million farmers and workers, along with over a thousand businesses, are now working under the Rainforest Alliance Certificate program.

In a world where commodity product manufacturing is threatening not only natural ecosystems but also rural communities, it is important to have organizations protect and  look after the interests of not only the big corporations but of the whole ecosystem of which we are only a part of.

We have mapped Rainforest Alliance to:

  • Reducing Carbon Emissions
  • Reducing Waste
  • Protecting Ecosystems
  • Empowering Animal Rights
  • Empowering Human Rights
  • Supporting Community

Rainforest Alliance certifies:

  • Companies 
  • Products 
  • Suppliers & Manufacturers

Cost to get certified:

Cost for farmers-The first step is to choose a certification body, there’s an array of options and each option may set their own fees. Farmers are also responsible for covering all costs associated with meeting the Sustainable Agriculture Standard. These costs may include: removing parts of their farm from production to comply with buffer-zone widths, implementing new management practices, or building new infrastructure. The Rainforest Alliance offers technical support to help farmers on the path towards certification.

Cost for companies- There are 5 costs when applicable:

1.US$100 Dollars for each SCRA(Supply Chain Risk Assessment).

2. Companies whose SCRA results indicate that they require an audit must pay the Supply Chain Audit Fees from a certification body of their choice.

3.The Sustainability Differential (SD), which is the premium price paid to farmers by their buyers to reward them for implementing more sustainable farming practices and achieving certification. This amount is on top of the market price of the commodity in question and irrespective of any other (quality) premiums and differentials.

4. The sustainability investment, which is an investment that buyers of Rainforest Alliance certified agricultural products make to help farmers meet the Rainforest Alliance certification requirements.

5. A volume-based royalty to the Rainforest Alliance, once in each supply chain, based on the volume of certified goods purchased.

The Rainforest Alliance License Agreement General Terms & Conditions outlines the total amount of the royalty per certified product, how it is collected, and at which point in the supply chain it is invoiced. Royalties are applicable whenever companies claim that a crop is purchased from a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm or sell it “as certified”. This happens whether the claim is on a product, on packaging, in a contract or invoice, or on promotional materials on or off line, regardless of whether our seal or other marks are used.

Do they perform audits on the companies:

Yes, although third party certification bodies perform these audits and we were unable to determine how often these audits take place.

Standards detailed on their website:

Yes, they have detailed standards for both farmer and company certification programs on their site and you can find them here.

Controversies:

Ethically’s quick take:

We somewhat disagree with the Rainforest Alliance’s transparency since it has been involved in numerous international scandals that range all the way from water pollution practices and the use of toxic fertilizers on their farming techniques, to the exploitation of the labor force and the lack of proper conditions for them to work. The Rainforest Alliance is often compared to the Fair Trade organization, which is also known to be involved in greenwashing practices.