Businesses are under increasing pressure to measure and report on their social and environmental impacts, whether from interested consumers or involved boards. But, more fundamentally, the data they gather can help them make better-informed decisions. In our certification program, we work together with farmers and companies, supporting them to use data to improve their risk analysis, measure progress along their sustainability journey, and support future claims. For example, our data approach supports our risk-based assurance model, highlighting risks that auditors need to focus on for a specific sector or country. We also work to help our stakeholders manage risk with the Rainforest Alliance child labor and forced labor sectoral risk maps.
New ways to measure sustainability performance over time
In the past, the information we collected through our programs could only show Certificate Holders complied with our requirements or not. With the rollout of the 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard, we now have a comprehensive set of indicators for Certificate Holders to measure progress against key metrics. Indicators allow us to measure how practices are being implemented and the impact they have, over time, from human rights issues, to geodata and other information on deforestation, to traceability.
The full list of data points that we collect and the indicators they reflect can be found here.
From mid-2023 onwards, we will start sharing reports with this initial data aggregated to the country level. Users will be able to see data specific to their supply chains. The level of detail and how it is shared is governed by our data sharing and ethics policy described further below, and will depend on the type of data, and the traceability level of each actor that has access to it.
The data collection process
Our process to collect and make the data available for reporting emphasizes our commitment to transparency and data ethics.
Certificate Holders provide information on their scope, indicator data, reach, geodata, self-assessments and other data points. Certification Bodies verify whether the Certificate Holder complies with the requirements of the Rainforest Alliance’s 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard and provide additional information on the audit and any non-conformities.
We monitor the data as it comes in, through automatic validations and manual sample checks, to review for quality. If data is missing or inaccurately recorded, we request the Certificate Holder or the Certification Body to re-send it. We are gradually working on building and improving the platforms to support certification, data collection, and traceability. This will make it easier, faster, and more accurate to share data, in accordance with our upcoming data-sharing policy. We also plan to work toward providing data from farm to landscape and country level, allowing broader examination of impacts and areas for potential investment and improvement.
Opportunities for collaboration
As we continue rolling out our Certification Program and IT platform, different types of data will become available. We already collect and report on the numbers of farm and supply chain Certificate Holders entering our program for different crops and in different countries. Going forward, we will be able to report on a wider range of data, and we will be working with our different stakeholders to ensure that the information collected is reliable and fit for purpose—and that it can be presented in the most useful way for each of them, according to the following timeline. This timeline indicates when the data will begin to be reflected in reporting. In parallel to developing those dashboards, we are rolling out customer access to our Power BI platform in a staged process.
When the full certification cycle begins from 1 July 2023, farm Certificate Holders will also report on a different kind of indicator data—Smart Meters. These will allow Certificate Holders to measure progress on a number of specific topics against targets that they set themselves, based on their own context and objectives. Some of these Smart Meters are mandatory for farmers and all buyers will receive supply chain specific reports on those. Other Smart Meters are self-selected, so farmers will not automatically collect this data and might rely on additional investments from buyers to implement data collection. An example is the measurement of a farm’s Carbon Footprint.
And at the other end of the supply chain, we are encouraging retailers who sell products with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal to register to our certification program and to make use of added functionalities for traceability and reporting afforded by data streams. This data can help them better understand their supply chain and the impact achieved by the certified suppliers they source from.
Responsible Data Sharing
Data can be a powerful tool, which is why it must be gathered and shared responsibly. So, we are updating our data-sharing policy to safeguard the quality and responsible use of our data and the people who provide it. Our new policy will cover how third parties can use the data, how we are making decisions about sharing data, and what mechanisms our stakeholders have to voice their concerns with about the data that we share.
More information on this policy will be forthcoming in Q1, 2023.