Yield and Income: Our Impacts

The Rainforest Alliance’s approach to conservation is based upon the idea that economic viability is an essential part of the sustainability equation. If a business cannot stay afloat financially, there’s no chance it will produce social and environmental benefits over the long term. That’s why the standards that we develop in conjunction with our partners emphasize economic criteria as much as they do environmental and social factors.

Together, we’ve set the bar high, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the resource-based enterprises we certify are sustainable in every sense of the word.

Certification Increases Yield and Income on Cocoa and Coffee Farms

  • According to a 2012 study we commissioned, Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire produced 40 percent more cocoa per acre than noncertified farms. The increased production was not linked to higher expenditures (such as the hiring of more workers), indicating that productivity gains were due to greater efficiency. Net income on certified farms also increased by a factor of nearly four.

  • Salvadoran coffee farms that were preparing for Rainforest Alliance certification and receiving technical assistance increased their harvests by an average of 89 percent over the previous year (compared to a 25 percent increase among noncertified farms). Net incomes also grew much faster on certified farms.
  • In a study that looked at more than 300 Nicaraguan coffee farms certified by various programs, Rainforest Alliance Certified farms had 20 to 40 percent higher yields than those certified under other systems. On average, they produced higher-quality coffee beans and earned higher prices, enabling farmers to reinvest in their businesses.

Competitive Advantages for Certified Sustainable Forestry

  • As markets for certain noncertified wood and wood products have shrunk, certified wood markets have grown. In the European Union, where the demand for tropical sawn wood dropped an average of 13 percent per year from 2005 to 2010, the market share of FSC-certified sawn wood in Western Europe grew significantly during the same period1. In the United States, the green building trend has fueled demand for certified products.
  • Pennsylvania’s state forests have been FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified since 1998, and an analysis of the state’s sales records demonstrated that the certified timber it sold to FSC-certified Chain-of-Custody buyers earned Pennsylvania a total of $7.7 million more than if it had sold its timber to noncertified buyers.

Higher Quality and Greater Profitability for Latin American Forestry Cooperatives

  • In the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve of Honduras, the Rainforest Alliance and local partners have worked with 12 community forestry cooperatives to provide technical assistance, training and access to new markets. A 2010 study determined that even though the volume of their output increased by only 33 percent, their income rose by 128 percent -- largely due to the improved quality of the sawn timber.
  • After receiving technical assistance from the Rainforest Alliance and local partners, a group of community forestry enterprises within Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve tripled its sales by selling decking, flooring and guitar parts instead of coarsely sawn lumber. Though the volume of product increased by just five percent overall, the group’s income more than doubled, and more than 400 permanent jobs were generated annually. The growth benefited more than 10,500 people directly and 70,000 indirectly.
  • In Mexico, a community forestry enterprise in San Bernadino de Milpillas Chico had been losing money until it began receiving technical assistance from the Rainforest Alliance. The enterprise then turned a $1.7 million profit in just three years and attracted $1.1 million in investments, which it mainly used for equipment and technical training that improved forestry practices. Production costs fell, sawmill output rose, quality improved and 15 new jobs were created.

The Economic Benefits of Our Work:

  1. CBI: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, “Promising EU Markets for FSC-certified Tropical Sawn Wood,” 2011, www.cbi.eu/?pag=85&doc=7078&typ=mid_document