Claims Level Mutual Recognition
Since July 1, 2020, the Rainforest Alliance has been offering claims level mutual recognition for coffee, vanilla and herbal infusions (including rooibos), adding to the cocoa, tea and hazelnut mutual recognition launched in July 2019. This means that companies at the end of the supply chain for these crops are able to source Rainforest Alliance Certified or UTZ certified ingredients (or a mixture of both), and then use either the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or UTZ label on pack, in accordance with the corresponding labeling rules.
Please note that we are phasing out of old Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and UTZ label. See Timelines for New Rainforest Alliance Seal Use On Cocoa Products for more details.
Chain of Custody Mutual Recognition
Chain of Custody Mutual Recognition has been in place since December 2018, and allows companies to purchase both UTZ certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified ingredients while only having to be audited for one of the current Chain of Custody standards.
Note that once companies transition to the new 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, Chain of Custody Mutual Recognition is no longer relevant. Please see the Transition Rules for further details.
Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance
With the launch of the 2020 Rainforest Alliance SAS, we will shift to Full Mutual Recognition for all Rainforest Alliance mass balance products throughout the entire supply chain not just at claims level. This means that when products are downgraded to mass balance, they will only be visible as Rainforest Alliance certified products, regardless of whether the product was produced against the 2017 UTZ Certified standard, 2017 Rainforest Alliance SAS or 2020 Rainforest Alliance SAS. This applies to cocoa, hazelnuts, processed fruits (including i.a. orange juice and coconut oil) and herbs & spices (including herbal tea ingredients and Rooibos).
Full Mutual Recognition will start at different times depending on the sector. Please see Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance Cocoa for details on cocoa. The timelines for the other sectors will be communicated in due course.
In preparation for mutual recognition, our volume-based royalties for all of these crops have been aligned between the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs as of July 1, 2020. For coffee, the royalty has been aligned at the current Rainforest Alliance program rate. For cocoa we aligned at a level between the two current programs, and for tea we aligned at the Rainforest Alliance royalty level.
For coconut oil we will charge a reduced royalty of USD 25/MT crude oil from July 1, 2021. For processed fruits the royalty is US$ 0.015 per pound of soluble solids, except for banana puree the royalty is US$ 0.005 per pound of soluble solids and for canned fruits it is US$ 1.00 / MT of drained weight. The royalty for processed fruits is applicable for all volumes from 1 January 2022, except for orange juice where a royalty is already applicable. In the Herbs & Spices Program we are introducing the following royalties as of April 1, 2022: high value herbs & spices such as vanilla US$ 1.250/MT cured vanilla, key herbs & spices US$ 70/MT (key herbs & spices are pepper, cinnamon, chili pepper, sage, oregano, coriander, paprika, cardamom, dill, clove, parsley, nutmeg, thyme, laurel / bay leaf, rosemary, tarragon) and other herbs & spices and herbal tea ingredients US$ 25/MT. Please see our explainer page How Much Does Rainforest Alliance Certification Cost for more details.
Together, these mutual recognition arrangements are an important step that will make things simpler for companies and allow an easier transition into our new certification program. In addition, we hope that farmers in both systems will find new buyers and markets for their produce. For more information read the Q&A below, check our mutual recognition guidelines document, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions & Answers
Scope & General
Who is eligible for mutual recognition?
Companies sourcing UTZ and/or Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, cocoa, tea, herbals, hazelnuts or vanilla and packaging them for consumers or foodservice (Away From Home) may be eligible for mutual recognition to use either the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or UTZ label on their products. This means that only companies at the end of the supply chain producing a finished product are eligible for claims level mutual recognition. Specifically for tea and herbal teas, mid-supply chain actors may also be eligible if they are producing and selling tea blends.
What does “herbal infusions” include?
Herbal infusions (also called “herbal teas”) include rooibos, mint, hibiscus, apple pieces, and all ingredients used in any herbal infusion blend: herbs, spices, flowers, and other botanical ingredients. However, any herbs and spices that are not part of an herbal infusion (such as table herbs, table spices and seasoning mixes) are not included in mutual recognition.
What about other crops?
Companies selling other products from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms – such as bananas and other fruits, palm and coconut oils, flower bouquets, table spices, etc. – continue to be eligible to use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal but are not be eligible to use the UTZ label. Claims level mutual recognition will not apply to any further crops.
The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ standards are different – is there a risk of confusing consumers?
Our two existing certification schemes are very similar in terms of objectives and impact; however, we have published details on our website outlining what Rainforest Alliance seal means and how it relates to a product or an ingredient grown on farms certified to either the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard or the UTZ Code of Conduct. Companies are welcome to link to this page from their own communications to ensure full transparency and disclosure as we transition to our new standard.
What seal or logo will be used for the new certification program?
In 2020, we introduced a new and modernized Rainforest Alliance certification seal that replaces the previous Rainforest Alliance seal and the UTZ label. The new seal became available for use September 1, 2020.
The UTZ label will be gradually phased out. Meanwhile, companies can continue to submit UTZ labelling approval requests at least until the end of 2022, with the exception of cocoa labelling, which as of October 2020 can be approved with the new Rainforest Alliance seal only. We will continue to offer support for UTZ certified brands and products, from sourcing through marketing.
What can I do to use Mutual Recognition?
If you haven’t already done so, start by ensuring that you have mutual recognition for Chain of Custody certification set up. You must first have Chain of Custody mutual recognition to be eligible for claim-level mutual recognition of your products. As a part of this process, if you don’t have one already, you will also register for an account in our Marketplace platform which will be required in order to make requests for mutual recognition claims. Once you have transitioned to the 2020 program, chain of custody mutual recognition will become unnecessary.
Can I use both seals on one package or in a single claim?
No, not through mutual recognition. Existing rules apply, however, meaning that dual labeling can happen in certain instances. For example, if one ingredient is UTZ and another is Rainforest Alliance certified, they would continue to be able to claim the two independently so long as it is clear which relates to each ingredient.
Which labeling rules apply when using mutual recognition?
The labeling rules / policy that support the seal to be used will apply; i.e. if you wish to use the UTZ label, the UTZ 2017 labeling rules apply. If you wish to use the legacy Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, the Rainforest Alliance 2016 labeling guidelines apply. For the new Rainforest Alliance seal, the 2020 Labeling Policy and Seal Graphic Guidelines apply.
Can I use the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on hazelnuts?
Yes. We believe in helping brands link all of their claims together, simplify their message, and prevent a proliferation of messages that may confuse consumers. This also helps facilitate our move towards a single new seal in the future.
What text claims are allowed?
All text claims must be true, accurate, and approved in advance by the Rainforest Alliance, as per the corresponding labeling rules or guidelines. Companies sourcing from either or both UTZ certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified farms may label products or make claims about those products as per mutual recognition, and when using the new Rainforest Alliance seal may claim that their product “comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms” or simply “is Rainforest Alliance Certified.” Please consult your own legal counsel on labeling laws in your country. Companies are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with local laws.
Can I claim that my product is free of GMOs?
Yes, if you can support that claim independent of certification. While we understand that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not generally available for the crops included in mutual recognition, note that the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance standards differ in their approach to GMOs. The Rainforest Alliance standard prohibits the use of GMOs while the UTZ standard permits GMOs provided that the producer declares such use to UTZ. To date, UTZ has not received any producer GMO declaration. However, in the event that a producer declares GMO use in the future, that UTZ certified product will not be eligible for the mutual recognition program.
Can volumes switch between UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification as they progress through the supply chain?
No. Once the volumes enter our traceability systems as either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified, it remains that way until the point of claiming. Volumes in the supply chain may not be bought as either Rainforest Alliance or UTZ certified and then sold as the other. (The exception will be Mass Balance cocoa, for which we will allow full mutual recognition starting October 1, 2021.
In this manner, we (and end users) retain traceability and visibility of which code or standard was deployed at origin. In addition, given that we have implemented mutual recognition at the Chain of Custody level already, this does not prevent supply chain actors from buying both so long as the correct administrative processes are followed.
If a mid-supply chain actor is buying from both programs, can they physically mix UTZ, 2017 SAS Rainforest Alliance Certified and 2020 SAS Rainforest Alliance volumes during processing?
No, although there are exceptions for final user mixing and for tea and herbal teas. In the case of mass balance, the two schemes remain independent of each other from origin all the way through the supply chain until the final user, where they can be mixed. Certification Bodies checking that claims have the required approvals in place will check that the volumes for these claims have been sourced correctly and, at this point, they may be from either scheme. In the case of tea and herbal teas, mid-supply chain actors may physically mix UTZ and Rainforest Alliance Certified volumes for the production of tea blends, provided the respective volumes remain separate in the administration and are reported in the corresponding traceability systems.
Can a supply chain actor mix UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified volumes with those certified by other schemes, or not certified at all?
Only when part of a mass balance supply chain, according to existing mass balance rules, or in consumer-end packaged products with 90% certified content claims. Mutual recognition applies to the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification programs only.
Why are the royalties/fees changing?
In order to allow volumes to be used interchangeably at the end of the supply chain, it is important for us to align the fees/royalties charged by the Rainforest Alliance during this period of transition to the new certification system.
What will the rates be?
We are aligning the fees/royalties of our existing programs in order to support mutual recognition. The rates that will be charged during the period of transition towards the new standard will be as follows:
- $12.90 per MT for cocoa (replacing the current Rainforest Alliance royalty and UTZ program fees from July 1, 2019, and the current UTZ membership fee from January 2020. To allow for full alignment on costs, the UTZ high volume discount structure was discontinued as of July 1, 2019. The total fee increases for UTZ First Buyers will be capped at +20% for 2019 and 2020, calculated by comparing new annual costs to what costs would have been with the pre-July 2019 fees).
- $33.07 per MT ($0.015 per pound) of green coffee, as with the current Rainforest Alliance royalty, from July 1, 2020. For UTZ certified coffee, this represents a 0.3 US cent increase per pound. From January 2021 we intend to shift the invoicing to the first buyer after export level (or in cases when the coffee is not exported, the company redeeming the volume in the MultiTrace system will be invoiced).
- €30 per MT for the hazelnuts program fee , invoiced to the first buyer with a Chain of Custody certificate (no change), membership fees continue (no change)
Herbal infusions, including rooibos
- €22.50 per MT for all herbal infusion ingredients from July 1, 2020. As with the current UTZ program, it will be collected once in each herbal supply chain, invoiced to the packer of the herbal infusions for consumer products, with or without an UTZ or Rainforest Alliance claim.
Tea (excluding herbals)
- $12.50 per MT for tea (no change to the existing Rainforest Alliance royalty, and replacing the current UTZ program fee from July 1, 2019).
- No royalty or fees will be charged for vanilla at this time.
Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard / UTZ Code of Conduct Certification Holders
Can a producer now automatically sell their production as either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified?
No. All producers need to continue to sell their products as UTZ or Rainforest Alliance Certified as based on their certification and until they transition to the 2020 certification program. Until then, they also need to continue to ensure that their sales are registered in the appropriate traceability system as per their current set up.
Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance
When will Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance start? When will the three programs all be visible as Rainforest Alliance for mass balance?
Full Mutual Recognition will start at different times for the different sectors. Please see Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance Cocoa for details on cocoa.
The timelines for the other sectors will be communicated in due course.
Why will you only allow Full Mutual Recognition for Mass Balance and not for Segregated or Identity Preserved products?
For mass balance, the programs are now sufficiently aligned to be used toward the same sustainability claim, while still allowing traceability and visibility on their origins.
Mass balance traceability is purely administrative. Under the mass balance model, users are not required to keep certified products segregated from non-certified products. Mixing of segregated or identity preserved with non-certified is not allowed. See FAQ: What is Mass Balance Sourcing? for details.
Since traceability for mass balance is already administratively only, we allow Full Mutual Recognition for all mass balance volumes so that all three programs can be combined into one certified supply stream.
How will this affect farmers?
In the cocoa, herbs & spices and processed fruits program, farmers will not be affected by this change.
For cocoa, the first sale from the Farm Certificate Holder to the First Buyer will always be according to our Identity Preserved program, and never as mass balance. These sales will continue to take place in the same way. Only from the First Buyer onward can the product be downgraded to mass balance.
In the hazelnut and coconut oil program, we allow mass balance already on the level of the farm certificate holder, so they will be able to continue with mass balance sales and mix mass balance credits for legacy programs and 2020 RA SAS volumes.
Contracting and invoicing
Which program should I refer to in contracts?
We allow all contracts to refer to a “Rainforest Alliance” product, regardless of the program. All contracts for Legacy (UTZ or old RA) or New Standard volumes may be referred to as “Rainforest Alliance” rather than specifying the Legacy or New Standard program through which the product was certified. This means only one contract template is needed for all UTZ or Rainforest Alliance certified products.
This change is aimed at reducing the administrative burden and complexity for companies buying and selling certified products. Only one contract template will be needed, and there is more flexibility and room for adjustments between the date the contract is signed and the date the product is shipped and invoiced.
Is the change in wording of the contract to “Rainforest Alliance” product also reflected on invoices?
Yes. Invoices may also refer to “Rainforest Alliance” regardless of the program against which the product is certified.