Rainforest Alliance Reaches New Milestone as Area of Certified Farmland Exceeds One Million Acres

April 15, 2008

The Rainforest Alliance has reached a milestone as the area of farmland certified in compliance with the environmental, social and economic standards represented by the organization's seal of approval recently surpassed one million acres (more than 414,000 hectares) in 18 countries.

This achievement reflects the significant growth the Rainforest Alliance has seen in its sustainable agriculture, forestry and tourism programs in the past year resulting in multi-billion dollar impacts on global markets. The organization counts among its successes the engagement of about five percent of Fortune 500 companies, including Xerox, Costco and Whole Foods Market, on strengthening the sustainability of their supply chains.

"In the past year, the Rainforest Alliance has seen a groundswell in interest in sustainability from companies and consumers," said Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan, who was listed by Ethisphere magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics last year. "The organization set out two decades ago to harness market forces as an agent for change. It is exciting to see that idea catching on in the mainstream and having major impacts on the ground in conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods."

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In agriculture, the number of Rainforest Alliance Certified farms grew by 143 percent in the past year to reach a total of 25,731, benefiting some two million farmers and helping to mitigate carbon emissions by conserving forest cover. The amount of coffee purchased from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms has increased by an average of 93 percent every year for the past five years, from 7 million pounds in 2003 to 91.3 million pounds in 2007. Last year, the retail value of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, bananas and cocoa reached an estimated $1.2 billion.

This success is due in large part to increasing interest from consumers in the impacts of their daily purchasing choices. In the UK, for example, McDonald's has reported a 22 percent increase in coffee sales since switching to Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee in January 2007.

Tropical crops -- including coffee, cocoa, bananas, tea, oranges, mango, guava, passion fruit, pineapple, vanilla, ferns and flowers -- that bear the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal come from farms that meet the environmental, social and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of eight environmental organizations in Latin America for which the Rainforest Alliance serves as secretariat.

In forestry, the number of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain-of-Custody certificates awarded by the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood program increased by 47 percent in the past year to reach a total of 1,901. That is about a quarter of the total FSC Chain-of-Custody certificates issued globally.

The FSC recently estimated the value of wood products labeled with its logo to be about $20 billion globally. The Rainforest Alliance, in collaboration with our partners NEPCon (based in Denmark) and IMAFLORA (based in Brazil), has certified about 44 percent of the 243 million acres (98 million hectares) of FSC-certified forestland.

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In addition, the area of land enrolled in our SmartStep program, a stepwise program for forestry operations to achieve FSC certification over five years, increased by 118 percent over the past year to more than 640,000 acres (nearly 260,000 hectares). And our TREES program is working with more than 60 community and indigenous forest enterprises that manage more than 2.4 million acres (more than one million hectares) of forestland.

In tourism, the number of Latin American businesses taking part in the Rainforest Alliance's training courses -- focused on improving the sustainability of their operations -- increased by 41 percent in 2007 to reach a total of 257 businesses last month. Additionally, the number of agreements the Rainforest Alliance has signed with tourism operators focused on greening their supply chains grew by 130 percent last year to reach a total of 62 agreements in 10 countries. We also signed agreements with the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism.

Companies of all sizes are increasingly buying goods that come from certified, sustainably managed farms and forestlands. Some of these companies include: ABC Carpet & Home, Café Bom Dia, Caribou Coffee, Chiquita, Costco, Crate and Barrel, Domtar, Gibson Musical Instruments, Gloria Jean's Coffees International, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, IKEA, innocent, HarperCollins Publishers, Holiday Inn hotels in the US, Kraft Foods, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, McDonald's in Europe, Mohawk Fine Papers, Office Depot, Potlatch Corporation, Sainsbury's, Sam's Club, Scholastic Inc., Staples, Tchibo, Tesco, Tetra Pak, Time Inc., UCC Ueshima Coffee Company, Unilever, Whole Foods Market and Xerox Corporation.

More than 20 years ago, a handful of young idealists founded the Rainforest Alliance and pioneered the strategy of using market forces to conserve forestlands. The organization uses third-party independent certification as a tool to encourage environmentally, socially and economically sustainable management of farms, forests and tourism operations.

The Rainforest Alliance now has a budget of $25 million; offices in the US, Latin America, Europe and Southeast Asia; and partner organizations in 10 countries. The organization's work is supported by some 40,000 members, foundations, corporate donations, government agencies including the United States Agency for International Development and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), and multi-laterals including the United Nations Development Programme -- Global Environment Facility.