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Looking Ahead to a Promising New Year

January 1, 2010

In spite of an unrelenting economic downturn, the Rainforest Alliance continued to grow and flourish in 2009. Why? According to president Tensie Whelan, it's because "we have a unique model that is providing people with the tools they need to deal with the new resource-constrained realities of the 21st century." As she explains, "We're helping hoteliers, farmers and foresters to become more efficient, be better businesspeople, conserve water, protect wildlife and take better care of their employees and their communities." Here, she reflects on the past year and looks ahead to 2010.

Tell us about a 2009 Rainforest Alliance accomplishment that makes you particularly proud.

Thanks to our work, thousands of tea farmers in Kenya, India and Argentina have embraced sustainable practices and are now providing real benefits to people, wildlife and the environment. In India, for example, tea farmers are protecting critical habitat for 500 elephants.

The Year in Photos

Boys Smiling Take a photo tour of this year's highlights.

Staples, Mars, Unilever... some of the world's leading brands joined or significantly expanded their commitment to Rainforest Alliance certification this year. What is it about our work that resonates?

We are making a real difference on the ground, and people throughout the supply chain recognize that and want to be a part of it. Companies who buy natural resource-based products need those resources to be around indefinitely. So working with us both helps the planet and their bottom line. What we're doing is so practical, it's radical!

A major outcome of the recently concluded COP15 summit was REDD+, which acknowledges the critical role forests play in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Doesn't that put our work front and center in global efforts to combat climate change?

Yes, it definitely does -- and for good reason. Forests are critical to life on Earth. They protect water supplies, provide habitat and shade, and sequester carbon. All of our work is designed to protect and replant native trees. The Rainforest Alliance, the Sustainable Agriculture Network and the Forest Stewardship Council have requirements in our certification standards and best practices for the management of forests, crops and hotels that will be critical for meeting the targets set in Copenhagen.

As an organization, what is one of our most important goals for 2010?

Helping to develop strong, comprehensive certification standards and strategies for ensuring that funds aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) actually work and the benefits get back to the local communities. We plan to work on some 50 forest carbon projects around the world, testing different ways to determine their effectiveness.

What is one of your personal Rainforest Alliance New Year's resolutions?

To make sure that all Rainforest Alliance staff members, who work incredibly hard and with great passion, take time to take care of themselves as well as the planet!

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