The Rainforest Alliance acknowledges a recent investigative report produced by ABC News Nightline, which includes allegations of child labor found on select certified coffee farms in Chiapas, Mexico during the 2021 coffee harvest. The protection of human rights in global supply chains is at the very heart of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission, and we therefore take these matters very seriously.
The Rainforest Alliance recognizes the challenges in the coffee sector of Mesoamerica; the existence of these challenges is a key reason why we have chosen to work in these countries, to support farmers and producers who participate in our certification program and to address the root causes of human rights abuses and environmental degradation through our programs at landscape level. We welcome inputs from NGOs, the media, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders as they help inform our continued efforts to improve conditions on certified farms and in broader landscapes in the 70 countries where we work.
Following our usual certification process, which included several audits of the farms in question, the Rainforest Alliance, through third party independent auditors, did not find or confirm any cases of child labor on any of the coffee farms featured in the ABC News program. Like other farms in the Chiapas region, the farms featured on the ABC News program are currently transitioning to the 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. During this transition process, farmers and producers are trained on how to effectively implement our ambitious new system for tackling human rights issues such as child labor, known as “assess and address.”
The Rainforest Alliance has built a proactive system for mitigating the risk of human rights violations in the regions where we operate. In our Sectorial Risk Maps, which are a key component of our risk-based approach, Mexico coffee is identified as “medium risk” for child labor, which means that key indicators show there is a moderate potential of child labor in the country and sector. For this region, this is largely due to a high volume of migrant families with children crossing the border from Guatemala. Therefore, certified farms are required to take additional measures to identify and mitigate these risks beyond the basic Rainforest Alliance Farm Risk Assessment Tool. These additional measures include from year two of being certified, identifying the root causes of child labor through an in-depth risk assessment, and working with others (including buyers, local governments, and NGOs) to tackle these root causes to prevent child labor. Farmers must implement monitoring and apply strong mitigation actions when risks are identified. The Rainforest Alliance provides guidance to all certificate holders on how to implement these processes, providing training and capacity building for social auditing skills. Further, the Rainforest Alliance regularly follows up with independent certification bodies in the region to alert them to look for any sign of child labor while conducting audits, especially during the coffee harvest season when the risk of child labor is highest.
The Rainforest Alliance would like to confirm that, contrary to the ABC News report, none of the farms mentioned have been decertified. In addition to other assurance measures, including our use of risk-based assurance and risk maps, there will be additional audits on the farms featured in the ABC News program, to be conducted during the upcoming coffee harvest, which corresponds with the period at which the risk of child labor is highest. These audits are traditional audits, but in this case, the audits will also include a local Rainforest Alliance representative. These audits are scheduled to take place before the end of the calendar year.