The Rainforest Alliance's Impact Grows Even in Economic Downturn

April 8, 2009

International conservation nonprofit the Rainforest Alliance has seen significant growth over the past year in its sustainable forestry, agriculture and tourism programs, despite the recent economic downturn. Consumers are continuing to demand sustainable goods and as a result, more companies are integrating sustainability into their bottom line.

Thanks to consumer choices and business' response and foresight, Rainforest Alliance certification of forest and farmlands grew by 23 percent during 2008. Today, through both forestry and agriculture programs, more than 131 million acres (52 million hectares) are managed sustainably, thus benefitting landowners, communities and the environment, up from 107 million acres at the end of 2007.

"Mainstream businesses are realizing that sustainability is part of the triple bottom line," said Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan. "In order to compete, they're investing in sustainable options that will help serve their businesses in the long-term. In turn, their positive commitments are spurring more on-the-ground conservation efforts."

Girls Smiling

In forestry, the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program certifies forest land to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, considered the gold standard of forest management. SmartWood's certified land increased 22 percent from 2007 to currently cover nearly 130 million acres (52 million hectares). The Rainforest Alliance currently certifies forest lands in 64 countries and accounts for nearly half of all FSC-certified acres throughout the world. In late December, the Rainforest Alliance reached an impressive milestone, certifying the largest-ever forest management group, which is when multiple landowners are certified under one certificate, to FSC standards with over 40,000 privately-owned forest parcels.

Forestry-related businesses in the supply chain, such as furniture makers, paper manufacturers, printers and more, are receiving FSC Chain-of-Custody certification in order to market the FSC seal on their products. SmartWood Chain-of-Custody certificates have gone up from 1,840 certificates to 2,458 in the last year.

The Rainforest Alliance's forestry program is also helping a number of industry leaders reach their sustainability goals within their supply chains. Companies involved include: Staples, Coca-Cola, Jensen Leisure Furniture, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Anderson Flooring, Century Furniture, ABC Carpet & Home and Gibson.

In agriculture, Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farmland increased 57 percent in the last year to nearly 1.5 million acres (598,000 hectares). In just one year, the number of certified farms increased from 25,640 to 31,156. Added to the list of countries containing certified farms were Vietnam and Jamaica, where coffee farms are certified, and India and Argentina, where certified tea estates now sell to Unilever. In addition to staple tropical crops like coffee, bananas, tea and cocoa, new crops such as grapes, açai and chestnuts were added in 2008.

Cocoa Pods

Sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in 2008 totaled 62,296 metric tons, or over one million bags, and sales of cocoa from certified farms grew from an estimated $4.5 million to $16.75 million in the last year. Since the beginning of 2008, the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal has been popping up all over the world on coffee, tea, cocoa and fruit products. In the United States, products from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are now available in Best Western hotels, Costco, Wal-Mart and even at Sea World, and on brands like Lipton Tea and Lipton PureLeaf, POMx Iced Coffee, Newman's Own Organics, Dayka & Hackett grapes, Arthur's Juices, Kopali Organics and Whole Foods' 365 Orange Juice. Further north in Canada, the frog appears in department store giant Zellers, and on Nabob coffee and select Red Rose and Salada teas. In Europe in 2008, the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal emerged on brands like Costa Coffee, Kenco, Suchard hot chocolate, Subway, Flavia, Wayne's Coffee, Panos and can now be ordered on British Airways. In Australia, Aussies can buy Rainforest Alliance Certified goods at McDonald's and McCafé, Gloria Jean's, Bravo Coffee, Cookie Man and Aramac Foods. Brands like Tokyo Allied Coffee, Lotte's Ecochoco Foresta chocolates, Key Coffee, UCC coffee, and Chiquita bananas and pineapples are now appearing with the seal in Japan. The frog has also hopped over to Singapore and China, on coffee cups served at MIX coffee shops.

The Rainforest Alliance's sustainable tourism activities have increased by 43 percent since 2007, as the number of businesses working with the program increased from 300 to 429. The Rainforest Alliance also teamed up with the United Nations Foundation, United Nations World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to launch the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria in October 2008. These criteria will be the minimum standard that any tourism business should aspire to in order to protect and sustain the world's natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for poverty alleviation. The 37 criteria will help harmonize certification systems, codes of conduct, and sets of best practices around the globe and will be relevant to lodging and tour operators of all sizes and in all locations, across the industry.

In 2008, the organization's climate initiative also validated its first carbon offset project to the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standards in Indonesia. The Rainforest Alliance has validated and verified forest carbon projects in the United States, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, England, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Indonesia, and is currently working with projects in over 20 countries.

In the past year, the organization and staff members were recognized for numerous honors, including Top Small Workplace by Winning Workplaces and The Wall Street Journal. President Tensie Whelan was named was named to Ethisphere magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics 2008 and Chief of Agriculture Chris Wille was named one of Ethical Corporation's 10 Ethical Leaders of 2008. The organization also launched its first Picture Sustainability Contest with FujiFilm and became a "Trust Provider" on WorldofGood.com by eBay, an online spot for socially conscious shopping.