The race is on to meet the requirements of the European Union Regulation on Deforestation-free Products (EUDR) by December 30, 2024—and certified coffee and cocoa companies can consider the Rainforest Alliance a powerful partner in this sprint.
As leaders in combating deforestation for more than 35 years, we are primed to leverage the full potential of our systems and offerings to help certified cocoa and coffee supply chain partners show compliance with EUDR requirements—and at no extra cost.
The regulation requires operators and traders who sell cocoa and coffee (as well as derived products like chocolate) to EU markets, or export them from the EU, to prove that these products do not originate from land deforested after December 31, 2020. Our certification program is already equipped with a range of tools and systems—like our innovative automated risk assessment maps for deforestation—that can provide companies with complementary information needed for compliance and their risk assessments.
Certification: A Crucial Step to EUDR Compliance
The EUDR is already closely aligned with the approach embedded in the Rainforest Alliance Certification Program, with some small yet crucial differences between the requirements of both. Our expert teams are fast-tracking the adjustments needed to ensure our systems and tools can support your company’s EUDR needs in two essential areas:
- For farmers: EUDR criteria for cocoa and coffee Certificate Holders
Farmers are able to select specific criteria that align with EUDR requirements in the Rainforest Alliance Certification Platform (RACP). Farm Certificate Holders who choose these self-selected criteria will no longer be able to make use of our current allowance for “minor conversion” of land to agricultural use after the EUDR cut-off date.
- For companies: Supporting evidence for compliance
Traceability is the backbone of Rainforest Alliance certification. Our system already offers complete traceability options and by December 30, 2024, all supply chain stakeholders—including producers, importers, manufacturers, brands, and retailers who source Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa or coffee through Identity Preserved or Mixed Identity Preserved supply chains—will have the option to identify farm Certificate Holders who have selected the EUDR criteria in the RACP. Users can choose to access the data (including precise geodata) needed to support compliance with their EUDR obligations.
How your company can prepare
To meet the December 2024 deadline, companies should immediately action the following four measures to help facilitate compliance.
- Prioritize “Identity Preserved” audits: Take immediate steps to enhance your company’s traceability efforts to include Identity Preserved and Mixed Identity Preserved volumes.
- Engage your farm base and other suppliers: Encourage your farm suppliers to self-select EUDR-aligned requirements in RACP and ensure they grasp the significance of these choices; encourage other suppliers to do the same and to enhance their traceability efforts to include Identity Preserved and Mixed Identity Preserved audits.
- Facilitate geodata collection at farm level: Actively support your supply base in the collection and submission of geospatial data in line with EUDR requirements; once this data has been uploaded, the Rainforest Alliance can accurately cross-reference post-2020 deforestation and conversion against our deforestation risk maps—a key resource your company can use as supporting compliance documentation.
- Clarify certification benefits: Ensure internal and external stakeholders have a comprehensive understanding of how Rainforest Alliance certification can benefit you and your supply chain in meeting EUDR compliance.
Frequently asked questions
How can Rainforest Alliance certification support my company’s efforts toward EUDR compliance, and by when?
Coffee and cocoa farm certificate holders can select specific criteria that align with EUDR requirements on the RACP and upload their geodata. Companies are encouraged to actively engage with their farm supplier base, asking farm Certificate Holders to ensure data collection and submission happens at pace. The Rainforest Alliance is also providing support on the ground toward this purpose.
Does Rainforest Alliance certification mean that compliance with EUDR is guaranteed?
Companies are legally responsible for implementing the EUDR throughout their supply chain. And, while there is much alignment between the requirements of the Rainforest Alliance’s 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard and those of the EUDR, there are some small yet crucial differences between the two. Therefore, Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa and coffee cannot be automatically considered to be EUDR-compliant. However, our certification program is equipped with a range of tools that can provide companies with the additional information needed for compliance (at no extra cost to our certified supply chain partners).
How is the Rainforest Alliance supporting farm Certificate Holders to select and implement the EUDR requirements?
The Rainforest Alliance is communicating with farm Certificate Holders about what to expect with the self-selected EUDR criteria and has developed targeted training to that end. We are also working with our Associate Trainers Network (ATNs) and Certification Bodies to ensure they support farm Certificate Holders in implementation and auditing against the self-selected criteria.
What is meant by minor conversion?
The Rainforest Alliance 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard (see Annex Chapter 6: Environment) currently makes allowance for “minor conversion” of land to agriculture use in two specific instances:
- Minor conversion that has already occurred after January 1, 2014. This must be limited to 1% of the total farm area (and for farm groups, the total land area of the entire group) or 10 hectares, whichever is smaller. In such instances, the farm Certificate Holder must put in place a restoration/compensation plan.
- Planned minor conversion for infrastructure essential for farm or processing operations. This must be limited to 1% of the total certified land area and must be pre-approved by the Rainforest Alliance.
However, farm Certificate Holders selecting the EUDR criteria on RACP may no longer make use of the minor conversion allowed under point one above in cases where the conversion has taken place after December 31, 2020.
Are there sufficient Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa volumes to move away from Mass Balance?
We encourage companies to have a conversation with their suppliers as soon as possible to understand their ability to implement an Identity Preserved or Mixed Identity Preserved system, as the volumes of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa available for sourcing through these traceability levels is dependent on each company’s suppliers. All Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa is purchased from farm Certificate Holders as Identity Preserved and then each actor in the supply chain chooses how to sell that cocoa forward.
How does the Rainforest Alliance monitor deforestation on and around certified farms?
The Rainforest Alliance Certification Program uses a combination of satellite mapping technology and field-based, third-party audits to assess risks and instances of deforestation.
Farm Certificate Holders provide geodata during the certification registration process that is used as the input for a deforestation risk assessment. The results of this assessment are shared with the farm Certificate Holder and the Certification Body that will perform the audit. When auditing a farm group, the auditor must create a sample of farm members to visit based on the deforestation risk assessment. The auditor then visits the farms (including those that have been identified as “high-risk”) to identify any instances of deforestation after January 1, 2014. You can read more about this process and our tools to promote deforestation-free supply chains.
The Rainforest Alliance has proprietary forest-layer data sets for Peru, Brazil, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia, and uses Copernicus forest layers for other countries, mapped against Global Forest Watch maps for tree cover loss. We use proprietary AI remote sensing forest data alongside other publicly available and government data sources to map deforestation risks. The combination of traceability, proprietary AI forest mapping, and auditing offers a unique solution to coffee and cocoa companies.
Can all farmers use the deforestation risk assessment service?
All farm Certificate Holders are required to use the deforestation risk assessment during the certification process.
Who will pay for the costs of meeting the requirements related to EUDR?
In the Rainforest Alliance certification process it is the responsibility of farm Certificate Holders to collect and submit their geodata. However, this does not mean it is necessarily the sole responsibility of farmers to pay for this data collection. The Rainforest Alliance strongly encourages companies buying from coffee and cocoa certificate holders to support this geodata collection, financially or otherwise—especially considering that EUDR compliance is the responsibility of companies placing goods on the market in the EU or exporting from the EU.
For our supply chain partners, there will be no additional charge from the Rainforest Alliance for companies who choose to access this EUDR offering through certification.
How can the system prevent false positives? For example, in cases where tree cover loss occurs due to natural factors such as fires, natural disasters, or pruning of trees for canopy management?
The deforestation and encroachment risk assessments are based on satellite imagery. They are intended to provide an assessment of deforestation and deforestation risk, rather than definitive evidence of deforestation or non-deforestation. For Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa, further investigation through the assurance process allows for context to be taken into consideration. As part of the Rainforest Alliance process, farm Certificate Holders have the option of removing high-risk farms from their certification scope or visiting high-risk farms to collect the necessary proof that there was no deforestation on these farms. This is part of the internal management process for farm group certification.
The Rainforest Alliance will continue to refine risk assessment results through improvements, such as the progressive requirement on polygon mapping, and continually updating the maps used for risk assessments as new information becomes available. We will also continue to improve assurance measures for our certification program. These improvements should result in fewer false positives and fewer farmers unable to access certification.
Data collected through the self-selected criteria is only allowed to be used for compliance with the EUDR. Will retailers have access to this?
Companies will be able to access data related to their supply chain in line with what is provided in MultiTrace. If retailers would like to take advantage of this offering, they will need to go through the Rainforest Alliance supply chain certification process and participate in traceability in MultiTrace.
Retailers should work with their suppliers to identify the farm Certificate Holders that are in their supply chains.
In the Rainforest Alliance Certification Program, are the provisions related to land rights and compliance with national legislation in line with EUDR requirements?
The EUDR requires products to be produced in accordance with local laws, including not only applicable deforestation laws, but also human rights, labor rights laws, and other relevant legislation.
The legal and legitimate right to use the land is included in the Rainforest Alliance’s 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard requirements (See Chapter 5: Social, requirements 5.8.1 and 5.8.2). Although auditors are required to check official or legal documents, in many countries, there is no documentation that can be considered proof. Hence, the Auditor Verification Protocol (a guidance for auditors on how to check compliance for each requirement) provides the possibility to check “the absence of disputes” over the land.
If reference to local laws is already included in the Rainforest Alliance 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard, how is it evidenced?
As established in the Rainforest Alliance 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard, all farm Certificate Holders must comply with applicable laws and collective bargaining agreements (CBA) within the scope of the standard. In the case that an applicable law or CBA is stricter than a requirement in the standard, such law or CBA will prevail unless such law has become obsolete. In the case that an applicable law or CBA is less strict than a requirement in the standard, the requirement in the standard will prevail, unless the requirement explicitly allows for such law or CBA to apply (See Chapter 1: Management).
All Certification Bodies (CBs) that conduct audits for the Rainforest Alliance in specific countries must undertake an Applicable Law Assessment for each of these countries, to identify applicable laws corresponding to each requirement of the standard. The Applicable Law Assessment is updated annually by the CB and sent to the Rainforest Alliance. The CB has to make this Applicable Law Assessment accessible to their auditors so that they can verify the conformity of Certificate Holders with these laws.
For farm Certificate Holders, how will the data collection process change if we select the self-selected requirement?
The self-selected criteria will require farm Certificate Holders to collect geolocation data for all cocoa and coffee farm plots, with polygons for plots above 4 hectares. All geodata will need to include 6 decimal digits, rather than the 4 currently required by Rainforest Alliance certification.
Who will own the data after selecting the requirement?
This data is collected through the Rainforest Alliance certification process and is owned by the certified producers. Supply chain Certificate Holders will agree to limit the use of this data for EUDR purposes only.
In what way will the Rainforest Alliance assurance system support the EUDR’s data collection requirements?
When geodata aligned with the EUDR self-selected criteria is submitted through the certification process, the Rainforest Alliance will check the quality of the data. After that, the self-selected criteria will be included in the third-party farm certification and surveillance audits conducted by Certification Bodies, meaning that the auditor will check a sample of farms to assure the data submitted by the farm Certificate Holder is complete.
Based on the data collected, can the Rainforest Alliance write a due diligence statement following the EUDR requirements?
The Rainforest Alliance provides the platform and access to key data for our market partners to fulfil their obligations under the EUDR. The Rainforest Alliance is not enabled to issue due diligence statements.
For companies: To find out more, please reach out to your Rainforest Alliance account manager or contact our Customer Success team at email@example.com.
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