Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of questions commonly asked by college students. Still can't find the answer to what you are looking for? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q & A
Students often ask how the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal affects a company’s profits. While we can’t monitor profits for all the companies we work with, we do know that companies see other benefits to working with us. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have been shown to yield greater quantities and higher quality products than non-certified, and long-lasting relationships with such farms helps to mitigate risk for a company over time.
Perhaps the most meaningful benefit to companies, however, is that using our seal demonstrates their commitment to corporate responsibility. With data from our evaluation and research team and third parties showing the concrete, positive impacts that certification has on the environment and farmer livelihoods, companies can feel confident that they are making solid strides toward their own corporate social responsibility goals.
The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal assures consumers that the product they are purchasing has been grown and harvested using environmentally and socially responsible practices. Farms and forestlands that meet the rigorous, third-party standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.
Can farms that use pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) earn Rainforest Alliance certification?
Rainforest Alliance certification ensures that farmers use biological alternatives where possible and reduce their overall use of pesticides. The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards strictly prohibit the use of the most dangerous chemicals, including those on the Pesticide Action Network’s “Dirty Dozen” list and all genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farmers and workers on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must receive proper training in the application of any fertilizers or pesticides, and they must use personal protective equipment. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are not required to be organic, but some farms choose to earn organic certification in addition to Rainforest Alliance certification. The SAN standards go beyond organic in two critical sectors: wildlife conservation and worker welfare.
See a complete List of Prohibited Pesticides.
Why does the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal sometimes appear with a notation like “minimum 30 percent certified content”?
Because we believe that companies deserve recognition for their commitments to conservation, we allow those using at least 30 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified content to put the seal on packaging. Thirty percent certified content from a multi-national brand can have a huge impact on wildlife and workers. Moreover, by allowing 30 percent content, we also give smaller companies a point of entry. Because we are committed to transparency, if a product includes less than 90 percent certified content, the amount of certified content must be clearly indicated on packaging. Furthermore, while we allow 30 percent as an entry point, we require companies to scale up to reach 100 percent certified content over time.
What matters to the Rainforest Alliance is the impact on the land and workers. So a company sourcing sustainably for 30 percent of 100 tons has more of an impact than one sourcing 100 percent of 10 tons. What is important is that every ton of Rainforest Alliance Certified product helps farmers and farming communities to better protect their environment, supports decent wages to their workers, and enables community access to education, healthcare and decent housing.
There is currently one active Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee plantation in the state of Hawaii; however the comprehensive standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) focus on crops grown in tropical areas where high-value rainforests are threatened, not temperate areas like the United States. While sourcing local food and working with local businesses is important, many of the items you use most on campus can’t be local. Coffee, chocolate and many other products are grown and harvested in the tropics, where unsustainable farming practices threaten vital ecosystems and livelihoods -- that’s where the Rainforest Alliance comes in.
Certifications and food labels are often criticized for being vague, misleading and used as a “green washing” tool for big corporations. What makes the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal any different?
Our mission is to change sourcing practices on a very large scale. Big companies have a large reach, so imagine the kind of positive impact that could be made if more large companies sourced sustainably. That’s why we believe in working with big companies to change sourcing practices on a large scale. The big companies benefit, and so does the earth.
What exactly is the Rainforest Alliance’s relationship with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)?
The SAN is a coalition of leading conservation groups that links responsible farmers with conscientious consumers by means of the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal of approval. These conservation groups are: Conservacion y Desarrollo, Interamerican Foundation of Tropical Research, Fundacion Natura Colombia, Institute for Cooperation and Self-Development, Institute for Agricultural and Forestry Management Certification, Nature Conservation Foundation, ProNatura Sur, Rainforest Alliance, and SalvaNatura. The SAN sets the standards that the Rainforest Alliance Certification meets.
Fairtrade labeling standards are designed to tackle poverty and empower producers, giving them a guaranteed price for their products. Rather than emphasizing how products are traded, Rainforest Alliance Certification focuses on how the farms themselves are managed -- not just at the point of trade. Rainforest Alliance certification encompasses economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainability, instead of just the economic side. We believe in empowering farmers with the knowledge and skills to increase productivity and negotiate for themselves in the global marketplace, rather than setting price points.
How do you ensure that the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard remains rigorous and up-to-date?
In its earliest days, the SAN -- a collation of NGOs based in the tropics -- established a number of committees to periodically re-examine the standard and ensure that it remains rigorous and is applied and monitored responsibly. Comprised of a cross-section of network staff, consultants and internationally respected experts in their fields, these committees meet on a regular basis to debate even the minutest details and determine the best ways to address any unresolved issues or new needs. Learn more about the evolution of the SAN Standard »
There is no price guarantee, so there is no safety net in that form. Part of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission is to empower farmers and farmworkers to function well within the market system so they have better access to markets (especially specialty markets), improved crop yields and higher quality goods, making them competitive players. Many Rainforest Alliance Certified farmers also have relationships with buyers who are committed to using Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. Farmers gain stability through increased income from through better farm management and often through increasing production and improved quality.
What exactly is the relationship between the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Rainforest Alliance?
The Rainforest Alliance is a co-founder of the FSC, a broad-based group with members from environmental, First Nation and community groups and all scales of private and public sector forest enterprises. The Rainforest Alliance is one of many third-party verification certifiers who can conduct audits for the FSC to make sure forests meet FSC standards.
The Rainforest Alliance receives its funding from a variety of sources. In 2011:
- 36 percent of funding came from fee-for-service. Basically, farms have to pay for certification audits. Businesses will often pay the fee (e.g. Mars will pay for the certification fee for their cocoa farms) of the yearly audits. Often they will pay based on the size of the company.
- 27.4 percent of funding came from government grants.
- 18.3 percent of funding came from foundations.
- 11.7 percent of funding came from contributions and memberships.
- 3.3 percent of funding came from special events.
What are the benefits to businesses, farmers and foresters that are working with the Rainforest Alliance?
As farms, forestry operations and tourism businesses work to comply with sustainability standards, they also reap the economic benefits of better management, more efficient use of resources, increased investments in upgrades, improved staff training and other innovations. As a result, they often see dramatic increases in efficiency, quality, demand and price.
These improvements take different forms in different industries: for farmers, higher yields per acre, better harvests, and higher, more reliable income streams; for foresters, more optimal use of harvested resources, a decline in rejected product, and increased market access for products; for tourism businesses, increased visitors and market penetration. The context of these improvements also varies between developing and developed countries.
Sustainable tourism actively aims to reduce the travel industry’s negative impacts on the environment and local communities. Its principles can be applied to large or small travel destinations of all types. This covers a wide range of issues including economic viability, socio-cultural sensitivity and environmental conservation. The Rainforest Alliance works with tourism businesses to help them run efficiently and sustainably.