Public Invited to Participate in Revisions to Standard Used to Determine Farm Eligibility for Rainforest Alliance Certification

June 20, 2013

In its ongoing quest to strengthen its approach to sustainable farm certification, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) -- a coalition of nonprofit conservation organizations committed to promoting responsible farming -- is carrying out a major revision of its standard for Rainforest Alliance certification. The public is invited to participate in the review of the criteria used to determine whether or not farms are eligible to earn the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal of sustainability.

Every few years, the SAN undertakes a complete overhaul of the standard as a means of continually improving its approach to efficient agriculture, biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development. These regular, comprehensive reviews allow the SAN to tap into the skills, wisdom and insights of farmers, scientists, NGO representatives and other sustainable agriculture experts. The general public is also invited to provide feedback.

“One of the strengths of the SAN is its focus on continuous evidence-based improvements,” said Oliver Bach, director of standards and policy at the SAN. “Conducting regular reviews of the standards, based on extensive consultation and stakeholder discussion, ensures that the criteria for Rainforest Alliance certification are both innovative and adaptive.”

The SAN standard was developed in 1997 and last overhauled in 2008. The SAN also works to update its criteria on an ongoing basis, adding new modules such as the Standard for Sustainable Cattle Production, launched in 2010, and the SAN Climate Module launched in 2011, which helps farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“The philosophy of continuous improvement based on a robust socio-environmental management plan has been key for us in terms of efficiencies, sustainable yields and improved coffee quality,” said Juan Marco Alvarez, owner of El Ciprés, a coffee farm in El Salvador that has been Rainforest Alliance Certified since 2009. “We know the new standard will be more stringent, but we not only see the standard revision process as a clear opportunity to improve farming systems worldwide, but as a tremendous opportunity to become more competitive as coffee farmers.”

A focus on ongoing development also enables the SAN to address new issues as they arise, such as the current concern over what constitutes a “living wage” -- an issue complicated by the lack of an internationally agreed upon approach to identifying a living wage for each country and life situation. As part of the review and revision, the SAN is establishing a revised Living Wage Standard that balances farmer livelihoods, farm sustainability and the quality of life for workers and their families.

The public can provide feedback on the SAN standards through November 30, 2013, via the SAN website: http://sanstandards.org/sitio/subsections/display/47. To encourage participation and expand the source of views and comments, the SAN is hosting stakeholder workshops to facilitate input, and is also driving people to the survey online through its website and social media postings.