After the 2018 merger of Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, the company has been working hard to update its certification standards. Starting July of 2021, the new standards will go into effect on all of the Rainforest Alliance certified farms around the world.
The simplified mission statement of Rainforest Alliance is usefully short and clear.
Using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities.
One of the key new features of the certification process includes a departure from the “pass-fail” system. Instead, farmers will continually work to improve the ecosystem around them through the use of regenerative agricultural practices. As long as the farmers are pursuing sustainable practices and are achieving their conservation goals, they will qualify for certification.
Another new feature includes the use of GIS and other technologies to quantify the environmental impact of specific farms. New farms will be required to provide GPS coordinates to ensure they aren’t encroaching on endangered wilderness/protected areas. Unless they have written consent from their government, farms in protected areas will not qualify for certification.
Lastly, Rainforest Alliance decided the pursuit of sustainability shouldn’t just be up to the farmers. It should be a shared burden with the consumers/buyers. If a farm is labelled under Rainforest Alliance, buyers will be required to pay a “Sustainability Differential” which will be above market price. This monetary incentive will motivate farmers to pursue more regenerative forms of agriculture.
The only crop with a fixed Sustainability Differential is cacao which will be set at $70/metric ton.
Farms that destroyed natural ecosystems since 2014 will not qualify for certification. 2014 seems arbitrary at first, but apparently, the satellite data is significantly more reliable from 2014 onward.
Farms that show evidence of child labour won’t necessarily be stripped of their certification but efforts will be made to remediate the issue over time. The reason Rainforest Alliance won’t ban child labour is that the practice will continue underground after decertification.
By taking this route, the organisation mirrors more contemporary thinking. In this way, the practice can be documented and steps can be made to educate and dissuade farmers from using child labour.
Labels aren’t the solution to environmental and human rights issues but we welcome the organisation refining their older model that had early come under some criticism.