The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ to Merge, Forming New, Stronger Organization

The new organization will create a single agriculture sustainability standard; it will simplify the certification process, and continue to improve livelihoods for farmers and forest communities.

Rainforest Alliance & Utz

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced their intention to merge later this year.

The new organization, to be named the Rainforest Alliance, will tackle environmental and social issues around the world, including climate change, deforestation, poverty, and unsustainable farming. It will create a single global certification standard that will simplify certification for farmers and empower companies to build more responsible supply chains, more efficiently. It will also work to expand advocacy efforts and through new partnerships ensure conservation of entire landscapes in priority regions from India to Indonesia, and Guatemala to Ghana.

New organization, new certification standard

The future Rainforest Alliance will help ensure that more products are responsibly sourced, helping farmers and companies meet the growing demand for products with sustainable credentials.

The future sustainability standard, a single certification program known as the Rainforest Alliance standard, will utilize the respective strengths of the current Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and UTZ standards while creating a single auditing process for certificate holders.

As a result, it will be an easier path for companies to achieve proven sustainability certification, allowing them to drive innovation throughout their supply chains. Streamlining the certification process will also help the 182,000 cocoa, coffee, and tea farmers currently certified under both standards and new farmers alike to invest more efficiently in sustainability, avoiding a double administrative load of working with two standards and certification systems. Learn more about the development of the new standard.

Stronger together

Adopting the name "Rainforest Alliance" helps retain well-established engagement with consumers. By combining forces, the two NGOs will provide a leading platform to help increase demand for responsibly sourced products.

Together, the new organization will act as an advocate for change, continuing to protect the natural environment and striving to make sustainable agriculture and forest management the norm by working side by side with communities, businesses and governments. An aim that is already at the core of the missions of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.Our goal is to keep the focus on our shared vision—the very thing that brought us together—and the considerable combined assets we bring to four key overlapping areas of work:

Climate change

A Rainforest Alliance training event for cocoa farmers in Ghana

A Rainforest Alliance training event for cocoa farmers in Ghana

Photo credit: Marcus Shaefer

Both UTZ and the old Rainforest Alliance have developed effective climate-smart agriculture training programs to help farmers both mitigate climate change and strengthen their resilience to its destructive impacts. These include proven methods for soil and water conservation, increased productivity, and record-keeping. These practices are also enshrined in both certification standards. Additionally, the Rainforest Alliance has developed a multifaceted landscape strategy to halt deforestation—one of the primary drivers of climate change.

Human rights

Both organizations are founding members of the Global Living Wage Coalition, a collaboration between seven standards organizations working to establish region-specific living wage benchmarks to inform supply chain partners, workers, and trade unions. Additionally, concrete measures to protect key human rights, such as the right to free association and the right to decent housing, are critical components of both the Rainforest Alliance and the UTZ certification systems. These commonalities in our certification standards will guide us as we work to create a new, single standard in 2019. Additionally, UTZ has dedicated sector partnership programs devoted to gender equity and the prevention and remediation of child labor, and both organizations require training on gender equity, child exploitation, and living wage. The pre-merger Rainforest Alliance has established itself as a leader in sustainable landscape development programs that strengthen the land rights and the economic self-determination of indigenous peoples.

Farmer livelihoods

Boosting the productivity of farmers is another major area of overlap. Independent studies demonstrate that the sustainable agriculture methods prescribed in both the UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance sustainable farming programs improve crop yields and boost farmer income—thereby reducing some of the pressures that commonly drive deforestation. Central to our shared approach is the recognition that thriving farming communities and healthy ecosystems are mutually dependent.

Biodiversity

Both organizations have advanced critical interventions, through training and certification, to protect forests and prevent biodiversity loss. Sustainable farming methods that have been proven to protect biodiversity are a part of both certification standards, including integrated pest and weed management, buffer zones, shade trees on coffee farms, and protection of local streams and rivers. The pre-merger Rainforest Alliance also includes prohibitions on hunting (exceptions are made to respect cultural traditions of indigenous communities) and an emphasis on planting native trees.

Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

How will we feed the 9.8 billion people who will share Earth in 2050?