The work we do at the Rainforest Alliance is guided by our core values:
- Save the world one step at a time
- Be resourceful and innovative
- Embrace and manage change
- Walk in someone else’s shoes
- Be optimistic
- Be an ambassador
- Hold ourselves accountable
We have decades of experience and strong evidence that sustainability certification and verification services provided to farmers, foresters, tourism entrepreneurs, and other businesses can help achieve the Rainforest Alliance’s mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. We also know that certification and verification must be conducted by an independent, transparent, and accountable body. Rainforest Alliance auditing and certification services are managed and carried out by the RA-Cert Division. Personnel responsible for audit design, evaluation, and certification/verification/validation decisions are under the purview of the RA-Cert Division. Rainforest Alliance training, technical assistance, product sourcing, and other value chain activities are conducted so that they do not diminish the integrity of certification and verification.
We have developed policies and procedures to help ensure transparency, integrity, and accountability throughout all our programs:
Our Rules for Accepting Donations
Maintaining financial independence from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and verified farms, forestlands, and businesses is a critical element of our ability to provide technical assistance, certification, and verification services.
We accept contributions (monetary or in-kind) from entities that use our certification or verification services, only in the following ways:
- Fees for certification, verification, and related services
- Sponsorship or other support of public events
- Funding for educational, training, or outreach activities
Under no circumstances may anyone involved in decisions regarding the acceptance or use of contributions from a specific entity be involved in certification or verification decisions regarding that entity.
How We Make Decisions Independently and Transparently
Rainforest Alliance certification and verification services are conducted by program staff and consultants who meet established criteria for experience and training and who have not provided related consulting services or technical assistance to the business being audited for at least the past two years. They must declare any potential conflicts of interest in writing.
Rainforest Alliance certification and verification decisions are based upon review of audit reports, comments from the audited business owners and managers, and the input of stakeholders and peer review comments.
Reviews of certification and verification audit reports are done by staff members who also have previously made written declarations of independence. They can review audit reports only if they did not participate in the audit being reviewed and have not provided technical assistance or consulting services to the business seeking certification or verification for at least two years prior to the audit.
No other staff members have any involvement in the actual decisions. Our board of directors and executive office staff are not involved in any way in these decisions.
We separate our certification and verification work from the technical assistance services we provide. Auditors do not provide technical assistance services while they are performing audits or vice versa.
Complaints and Appeals
We have a dispute resolution policy (en español) for complaints and appeals that can be used by owners of the business that was audited or by outside stakeholders. Designated staff members investigate complaints as well as appeals of certification decisions. They document the review process and provide formal responses to those who made the complaint.
In the case of Forest Stewardship Council® certification, anyone who is not satisfied with the Rainforest Alliance investigation and response may subsequently submit a complaint to Accreditation Services International, the international body that accredits the Rainforest Alliance.
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) receives comments and complaints with regard to SAN certifications and standards. Complaints and appeals regarding SAN certification applicants and certified operations managed by the Rainforest Alliance’s certification division (RA-Cert) are handled according to our dispute resolution policy.
Rules We've Adopted to Avoid Any Conflict of Interest
The Rainforest Alliance Conflict of Interest Policy requires all directors, officers and staff members to disclose any actual or potential conflicts, both at the time of engagement and annually. An internal committee reviews these disclosures and reports to the Audit and Risk Committee (see Oversight and Accountability section below) on a quarterly basis.
Staff members and consultants who contribute to certification and verification decisions are required to disclose in writing all possible and actual conflicts of interest at the time the conflict or possibility of conflict becomes evident.
How We Review Our Decisions and Report to International Bodies That Also Double-Check Our Procedures
The Rainforest Alliance Audit and Risk Committee, which is independent of the financial control of the organization and certification and verification decision-making, meets on a quarterly basis and reviews at least annually our performance in maintaining full independence. The Committee is also charged with recommending to the Board of Directors the retention and termination of our independent auditor.
Members of the Committee are not remunerated by the Rainforest Alliance in any way, do not have any material financial interest in any entity doing business with us, and are not involved with our certification or verification decision-making.
Fiduciary oversight of our activities rests with our Board of Directors. Although we believe that Director experience with certification and verification can be quite valuable, it is our policy that our Board not be dominated by Directors with an interest in Rainforest Alliance Certified™ or verified operations.
Audit findings are documented in reports that are reviewed for quality and adherence to established procedures.
Accreditation and Assessments
The Rainforest Alliance is accredited by Accreditation Services International (ASI) to conduct audits and issue Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) certificates. FSC is an independent, international organization that promotes responsible management of the world's forests. To achieve and maintain FSC accreditation, we must demonstrate that our certification procedures meet stringent technical and procedural requirements and that our structure and procedures guarantee independence of our auditing activities and certification decisions. ASI audits the Rainforest Alliance annually at the headquarters level as well as through sample-based auditing of field performance through audits of Rainforest Alliance forest management and chain-of-custody certificate holders. Every five years ASI conducts a complete re-accreditation of the Rainforest Alliance.
Our carbon validation and verification activities are covered through accreditation by the American National Standard Institute for ISO 14065:2007 Greenhouse gases, with renewal on a three-year accreditation cycle.
Our sustainable agriculture auditing activities, as part of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), are accredited by the IOAS according to ISO/IEC 17065:2012 Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes, and services. The SAN includes other accredited certification bodies in addition to the Rainforest Alliance certification division, RA-Cert. A complete list of SAN certification bodies can be found on the IOAS website.
We are also a member of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance (ISEAL), an organization established to strengthen the integrity of social and environmental certification systems and whose members are international standard-setting, certification, and accreditation organizations.
The Sustainable Agriculture Network's (SAN) standard setting process is certified by ISEAL as being in compliance with ISEAL's Code of Good Practices for Standard Setting.
All stakeholders can comment on the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards and criteria for sustainable agriculture at any time, as well as provide feedback on draft versions of updated criteria during public consultation periods. The public consultation process includes outreach to stakeholders via local workshops or to stakeholders who are contacted directly with a request to provide comments.
Farm owners, managers, and other stakeholders are invited to join working groups that develop guidance indicators that interpret the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards for local conditions and specific crops.
The Rainforest Alliance and the SAN have formed the International Standards Committee, whose members are landowners, farmers, NGOs, community members, researchers, technicians, and other stakeholders interested in improving SAN standards. The committee welcomes comments from the public sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of their initial assessments, auditors solicit and collect public feedback on the forests to be audited via mailed questionnaires, individual interviews, and public meetings. For information about how to participate in this process, see the list of ongoing assessments, which includes information on how to submit your input.
Stakeholders may submit appeals or complaints about a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) / Rainforest Alliance Certified™ operation that they believe may not be in compliance with the FSC; read how this is done. To review the process and decisions that led to a specific operation’s certification, see the public summaries of forest management assessments.
Strategy to Strengthen Human Rights
Based on independent assessments and stakeholder feedback, the Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network are strengthening how we ensure worker protection. Learn more about our strategy.
To help ensure that Rainforest Alliance, Inc. (the “Rainforest Alliance”) complies with the highest standards of financial reporting and lawful and ethical behavior, the Board of Directors of the Rainforest Alliance (the “Board”) has established the following procedures for the reporting of illegal or unethical conduct in connection with the Rainforest Alliance’s finances, corporate policies, or other aspects of its operations, and the retention and treatment of such complaints, including confidential, anonymous submissions received from directors, officers, employees, and volunteers who provide substantial services to the Rainforest Alliance (who are referred to in this policy as “volunteers”). The General Counsel of the Rainforest Alliance (the “General Counsel”) is hereby designated to administer this policy. This policy must be distributed to all directors, officers, employees, and volunteers of the Rainforest Alliance.
Procedure for Reporting Complaints
Should any director, officer, employee, or volunteer of the Rainforest Alliance have a concern regarding any action or suspected action taken by or within the Rainforest Alliance that is illegal, fraudulent, or in violation of any adopted corporate policy, that person should immediately submit a complaint (a “Complaint”) to the General Counsel. Individuals may identify themselves in a Complaint or may submit Complaints on a confidential, anonymous basis, either orally or in writing. If a Complaint concerns the General Counsel or the complainant is not comfortable reporting to the General Counsel, then the complainant should submit the Complaint to the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of the Board or another member of the Audit and Risk Committee instead. Issues arising under the Rainforest Alliance’s equal employment opportunity policy, including the policy against harassment, employee benefit policies and issues generally handled by individuals responsible for the Rainforest Alliance’s personnel practices and procedures are not covered by this policy. Mechanisms for resolving such issues are addressed in separate procedures.
The General Counsel or the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee shall cause all Complaints to be investigated, unless he or she believes that the Complaint was not made in good faith or unless the Complaint was made anonymously and does not contain sufficient information to conduct an investigation. The Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee may, at his or her discretion, direct any investigation to be conducted by others, such as outside legal, accounting, or other advisors. Investigations will be conducted with as much confidentiality as is possible and practical. However, in all cases the Rainforest Alliance will use best efforts to act with discretion.
After the investigation is complete, the Audit and Risk Committee will receive a written report of the investigation, its findings and any action taken or proposed. The Audit and Risk Committee will inform the Board if any Complaint is confirmed to have merit or if the Committee otherwise believes that the Board should be made aware of the situation. The Audit and Risk Committee will ensure the appropriate resolution of any Complaints reported to it, subject to the Board's oversight. The Audit and Risk Committee will use best efforts to ensure that records of all Complaints are maintained in accordance with the Rainforest Alliance’s Records Retention and Management policy.
Protection under Policy
No director, officer, employee, or volunteer of the Rainforest Alliance who in good faith reports any action or suspected action taken by or within the Rainforest Alliance that he or she perceives to be illegal, fraudulent, or in violation of any adopted corporate policy shall suffer intimidation, harassment, discrimination or other retaliation or, in the case of employees, adverse employment consequences. The Rainforest Alliance will impose disciplinary measures against anyone who threatens or retaliates against a person for making a Complaint in good faith pursuant to this policy or for participating in an investigation. However, any director, officer, employee or volunteer who deliberately or maliciously provides false information may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
This policy cannot be viewed as creating a promise or contract by the Rainforest Alliance, and it may be amended by the Rainforest Alliance at any time without prior notification. Employment at the Rainforest Alliance in the United States is at-will, and nothing in this policy should be interpreted as in any way limiting this at-will relationship.
233 Broadway, 28th Floor
New York, New York 10279
Telephone: +1 (212) 677-1900
General Counsel: Leslie Park
Chair of Audit and Risk Committee: Annemieke Wijn, Board of Directors
The Whistleblower Policy is also available in Spanish.