Rainforest Alliance Spices up Sustainability with New Standard

February 10, 2012

The Rainforest Alliance today announced that it has teamed up with the Sustainable Spices Initiative (SSI) to interpret the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards to incorporate the sustainable production of spices. SSI is the first major program to address sustainability in the production of spices and this announcement marks the 11th World Spice Congress in Pune, India.

Founded by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and four leading players in the Dutch spice market, this major spice program will aim to implement SAN standards to the production of 34 different types of culinary spices. These standards will address key issues in the production of spices, including loss of biodiversity, heavy use of agrochemicals and poor conditions for workers -- problems which plague the production of spices globally.

“We’re delighted that the leading spice companies have recognized the value of the SAN standards for building sustainability in the industry,” said Chris Wille, chief of sustainable agriculture at the Rainforest Alliance. “Through developing local interpretations guidelines for the SAN standards, we will address the economic, social and environmental management aspects of how spices are produced are sustainable.”

Spices The first phase of the project, which will run from 2012-2013, will focus on seven spices: pepper, chili, ginger, turmeric, vanilla, clove and cassia. The four production countries for the first phase will include: Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Madagascar. It is expected that the Rainforest Alliance will complete the standards for pepper by the end of 2012.

Current practices in the production of spices are having an adverse effect on the environment. Through the adoption of the SAN standards, an array of areas will be addressed including: soil and water conservation; the protection of wildlife and forests; responsible waste management; and the prohibition of dangerous pesticides and genetically modified organisms.

Additionally, the SAN standards encompass a range of worker protection issues identified by the International Labour Organization, including the right to organize; the right to a safe, clean working environment; the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage; the right to dignified housing (including potable water); access to medical care for workers and their families; and access to free education for children. Farmers who work with the Rainforest Alliance also learn to increase productivity and control costs, often producing higher quality crops that can earn a better market price.

“We have found that farmers engaged in the Rainforest Alliance program learn how to grow smart, increasing their bottom line today and conserving the fertile soils and natural resources on which their children will depend,” said Eric Servat, manager of the cocoa program at the Rainforest Alliance. “This ambitious project will help farmers in the four production countries achieve this, and will also make the Rainforest Alliance a major player in the certification of spices.”