Sustainability Sprouts in China
The verdant peaks and valleys of Lincang -- located in China’s Yunnan Province -- are now home to the country’s first Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farm. Situated in the southwestern corner of China, the Green Fountain estate covers more than 2,400 acres (1,000 hectares) and produces some 500,000 kg of tea annually for Unilever (the owner and manufacturer of Lipton, the world’s best-selling tea brand).
“We are proud to become the first farm in China to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification,” said Helen Huang, president of Green Fountain. “We hope to serve as a role model to other farms, demonstrating the importance of sustainability and the benefits that certification brings to the environment, workers and our livelihoods.”
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tea, making our expansion here potentially meaningful and impactful for large swaths of land and tens of millions of people working in tea production. Rainforest Alliance certification is built on the three pillars of sustainability -- environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. To achieve certification, farms must meet the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Certified farms curb deforestation, conserve soil and water, reduce waste and provide habitat for wildlife. Workers benefit from safe work conditions, just wages, respectable housing and access to healthcare and education for their children. At present, there are Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in 40 countries on four continents.
Launching our agriculture certification program in China has not been without its challenges. “For the past year, we have worked under special permission from the Lincang, Yunnan and Central governments to pilot our sustainable tea certification program here in Yunnan Province,” explained Walter Smith, the Rainforest Alliance’s senior manager for the Asia-Pacific region.
“In just one year, we have conducted two auditor trainings for over 30 local auditors [in China] and conducted inspections of three tea farms in Yunnan,” Smith said. “By working carefully to establish the program in line with Chinese regulations, local culture, traditional practices and the local environment, we have built a strong foundation for the authentic implementation of Rainforest Alliance certification in China.”
In China, the expansion of the Rainforest Alliance’s work supports local, regional and national efforts to establish sustainable production practices across the country’s tea industry and other agricultural sectors. Sustainable agriculture will strengthen local farming practices and help to establish a platform to bring sustainable products to export and domestic markets, addressing growing consumer demand for green products. (According to a 2011 survey, 95 percent of consumers in China are willing to spend more on a product because it is green.)
In conjunction with this certification milestone, the Rainforest Alliance has also selected China Quality Mark Certification Group (CQM) as its local certification partner. The collaboration will help to create a solid foundation for the Rainforest Alliance’s growth in China, and will strengthen our network of locally based certification partners.