For retail and foodservice companies, it is crucial to understand their supply chain down to the farm level to best assess potential risks. The services and products that the Rainforest Alliance offers can support your journey towards more sustainable supply chains. Below you can find more information about what you can do, how we can help you, and the practical steps you need to take.
The Rainforest Alliance supports retail and foodservice companies in several ways:
- Rainforest Alliance trademarks
As an organization working with the Rainforest Alliance, you have the opportunity to promote your sustainability commitments by using and promoting our seal on your products. To do so, you need to obtain approval from the Rainforest Alliance. Read more about the process and requirements here.
- Rainforest Alliance certification for your private label or non-branded product
You want to foster responsible business practices and transparency throughout the supply chain for your private label or non-branded product. We can help you! Register for certification in RACP, the Rainforest Alliance certification and traceability platform to get a license and show compliance with the applicable supply chain requirements of the Rainforest Alliance 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
- Partnering with the Rainforest Alliance beyond trademark use or certification
Our tailored services offer you a chance to engage in projects beyond certification. For example, you can map your supply chains and the risks involved, engage in projects related to regenerative agriculture, landscape restoration, or living wage, among other topics. Interested? Write to our tailored services team to get started.
Seeking support to register for certification?
The following guidance materials could be of use for you when registering for certification.
- You are unsure if you need to register and, if so, for what purpose? The certification decision tree shown below can guide you.
- Take a look at the 1 pager Quick Start Guide Registration for retailers, where the main steps of the certification registration process are explained.
- Do you feel you can still use some additional support? Here is the link to our video tutorials on the certification registration process. The videos will guide you in detail through each step of the certification registration process.
- On the 18th of October, the Rainforest Alliance organized a global onboarding webinar: Extending Certification to Retail & Foodservice companies. This webinar guided participants through all the steps of RACP (the Rainforest Alliance Certification Platform) that are necessary to get your certification license, and also touched on verification levels and audits, seal use, SD and SI and traceability. You can watch the recording here.
Seeking marketing support to make your certified products stand out?
We can help you tell your sustainability story in a way that fits your brand values and resonates with your audience. We encourage you to look at our Marketing Examples from Partner Companies and team up with our marketing team by reaching out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org or get our ready-to-use Company Marketing Communication Toolkit for Point of Sale.
FAQ for Retailers and Foodservice Companies
How does the Rainforest Alliance define retailers and foodservice companies?
To determine what requirements and guidance applies, the Rainforest Alliance looks at the activities a company conducts. The Rainforest Alliance considers companies that only purchase and sell labeled, final products and/or fresh fruits to consumers as retailers. The same requirements and guidance apply to foodservice companies (e.g. restaurants, caterers) if they are not engaged in manufacturing and are brand owner.
Which retail and foodservice companies need to get certified?
A retailer or foodservice company should register for certification in the RACP, the Rainforest Alliance’s Certification Platform, if the entity is directly responsible for purchasing certified volumes and manages supplier contracts and relations directly. In other words, if a retailer actively purchases Rainforest Alliance Certified products for a brand it owns (private label brand) or actively purchases Rainforest Alliance Certified non-branded products in its supply chain, the retailer is in scope for certification.
Are there specific certification requirements for retail and foodservice companies?
The Rainforest Alliance has a specific set of requirements that retailers and foodservice companies must meet to become certified. You may also need to comply with additional requirements if your entity or location performs other activities such as processing or warehousing, or if your entity is the Certification administrator for other sites that perform those activities. If this is the case, you would no longer be classified as retailer and receive the full set of requirements according to your activities and registration in RACP.
What to do if your company is not able to obtain certification before the transition period is over?
Our certification program is new for retailers and foodservice companies, we recognize that registration and full participation takes time. Our expectation is that accounts make good faith efforts to complete Certification Program requirements from January-June 2023. If your company is facing challenges to meet specific certification requirements, for whatever reason, please contact us. We can provide support on a case-by-case basis. Please reach out to your account manager or our Customer Success team (email@example.com) if you need support.
What information do I need to provide for registration?
If you are registering to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, please go to the RACP platform, and provide your company details, including the crops that you work with, your location and contact information and whether you already have a pre-merger Rainforest Alliance and/or UTZ account. With this information you can open an account. You will then have to follow the process outlined in the platform. You can see some specific information on the steps you will have to follow below.
What is a License Agreement (Version 2020)? How do I get one?
The license agreement is an agreement and permission granted by the Rainforest Alliance, to use the Rainforest Alliance seal and traceability platforms and claim products as certified, when a certificate holder has proven compliance with all applicable program and standard requirements and agrees to abide by our License Agreement General Terms & Conditions and other binding documents.
Your entity needs to have a valid License Agreement (Version 2020) in RACP in order to trade. You can request and sign this document as part of the certification process. If you already have a valid License Agreement (Version 2020), you can upload it on the Legal tab of your account in RACP. If another organization, for example your parent organization, wants to sign the License Agreement on your behalf, they can link your entity to their License Agreement on the Legal tab of their account.
What is the Supply Chain Risk Assessment (SCRA)?
As part of the Rainforest Alliance’s assurance system, we collect data through the Supply Chain Risk Assessment (SCRA). The SCRA is part of the registration process for certification. The SCRA evaluates the potential risks of an organization’s operations on individual site level to determine the type and frequency of verification that they will need to comply with Rainforest Alliance requirements.
You will have to provide all relevant information to assess the level of risk in your supply chain when you register and complete your profile. A company’s profile is based on the activities, location and crop information captured through this process in combination with other internal and third-party data (volumes, compliance, social risks, and others) specific for each individual operation. These factors then feed into a risk calculation which lands an organization in one of the five verification levels.
This allows us to establish how often your entity needs review of how you are applying the requirements specific to you. The process can range from an internal Rainforest Alliance desk review of the certification profile of an organization, to a site audit carried out by a Certification Body, depending on the verification level you are assigned based on a risk assessment process.
You can read more about the verification levels in the Frequently Asked Questions on our general page about Supply Chain Certification: How to Get Supply Chain Certification.
When will I receive verification level A?
Part of the registration process for Rainforest Alliance Certification is a Supply Chain Risk Assessment. This determines the type and frequency of verification a company will need to comply with Rainforest Alliance requirements. Most Retail and Foodservice Company partners receive the lightest verification approach: verification level A. This means that they can get a license and certificate after a self-assessment process and signing a license agreement, without a remote audit from a Certification Body. Some Retail or Foodservice companies receive other verification levels.
The Rainforest Alliance has now decided all Retail or Foodservice company sites or locations that do not engage in processing or other non-retail activities will receive verification level A. Retail or Foodservice Company partners that are directly responsible for SD or SI requirements will no longer need a remote audit as part of their certification process. If a company has activities other than retail in its certification scope (e.g. processing), other verification levels may still apply, depending on the activity. Retail and Foodservice Company entities that already received a verification level B, and do not engage in non-retail activities, can get this corrected by reaching out to – firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the verification process and Verification levels can be found on our Supply Chain Certification webpage, or you can reach out to our Customer Success team – email@example.com.
Will I need to have a remote audit?
The certification profile of an organization is linked to a ‘verification level’. This verification level indicates the risk profile of the entity (location or site). Generally, all retail and foodservice companies who perform only retail activities and will receive Verification Level A. This means that they can get a license and certificate after a self-assessment process, without a remote audit from a Certification Body.
An entity or location of a retail or foodservice company will generally fall into other verification levels if:
- It is directly responsible for the related Sustainability Differential (SD) or Sustainability Investment (SI) requirements, as it is e.g. directly importing fresh fruits.
- If a company engages in traceability in tea and takes over the responsibility of its packer to commit and pay SD and SI in tea.
- If a company has activities other than retail in its certification scope, other Verification Levels might apply, depending on the activity (e.g. processing).
Previously it was communicated that retail companies that are brand owner for made tea would also receive a Verification Level B. This has changed: brand ownership for tea retailers no longer leads to Verification level B. With that decision, retail companies no longer need a remote audit only because of tea brand ownership.
You can read more about the verification levels in the Frequently Asked Questions on our general page about How to Get Supply Chain Certification.
I am a retailer, and tea brand owner, and already received a verification level B. What do I need to do?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to update your profile. The requirements of Chapter 3 will still appear for retail and foodservice companies since you are still responsible for SD/SI.
How will my verification level be determined?
As part of the registration process you will have to provide the following information:
Locations/sites you will add - Unless you wish to register for a multi-site certificate (including several subsidiaries), it is sufficient to just register one site (the one that manages the purchasing of Rainforest Alliance Certified goods). If you would like to add a subcontractor on your certificate, please indicate this. Mostly, this is not the case for retailers.
Your crops – You then select the crops. In the case of retailers, this is generally the Rainforest Alliance Certified ingredient(s) within the private label products you are purchasing from your suppliers, for example cocoa or coffee.
Your basic activities - Here, you have to select ‘retailer ’ for all crops, and add any other activities you may perform (processing, packing, etc.)
Your products - You will be asked about the type of product you are working with. Here you need to select all Rainforest Alliance Certified finished products. Examples of products you can select are chocolate, roasted coffee, packed tea, juice, etc. or fresh fruits.
Please note that on the RACP this is phrased as “input product” and as “output product“. Retailers are not making changes to the product, so you can select the same product on the input and output screens, for instance: Decaf coffee or roasted coffee, or fresh banana.
Your traceability levels – Here you have to provide information on the traceability levels that you are purchasing per crop: mass balance, segregated or identity preserved. You can read more about the traceability levels here.
Your purchasing, ownership of Rainforest Alliance Certified products and use of seal/claims. We will ask questions including:
- Does this location purchase Rainforest Alliance Certified products and take legal as well as physical ownership?
- Does this location handle exclusively Rainforest Alliance Certified products? (Usually, this is not the case)
- Does this location purchase directly from Farm Certificate Holder (usually, this is not the case)?
- Does the location make any claims about Rainforest Alliance Certified on pack or marketing materials? If yes, you will need to indicate whether you make a volume claim (e.g., 100% certified) and where you use the seal).
- Do you have any other supply chain certificates (Fairtrade, Organic, GFS, IS, or other)?
- What are the volumes you expect to handle over the next 12 months (please indicate an estimate)? We are aware this is challenging for products with multiple ingredients (e.g., chocolate products), a rough estimate is absolutely fine.
Which retail or foodservice companies should register for trademark approval?
Retail and foodservice companies often are divided into entities. If your entity is solely responsible for submitting labeling approval requests for on- and off-pack claims with the use of the Rainforest Alliance seal and/or the Rainforest Alliance name, you need trademark approval.
On-pack claims are claims that are put on the product itself. Off-pack claims are claims made on every other material that is not the product itself, for example a website advertorial. To request trademark approval, you need to register in RACP (the Rainforest Alliance’s certification and traceability platform) as ‘other organization’ and select the option ‘I only want to submit trademark requests on behalf of my company’.
Please note, in this case you don’t need to sign up for a certificate or a traceability account, but you will be required to either sign the Rainforest Alliance 2020 License Agreement or to link to the Legal Agreement signed by your headquarters or any other organization if you are listed as a child organization (if there is a legal link between parent and child organization) or sublicensee (if there is no legal link between the two organizations) through their own registration process. Your entity will then receive an account for trademark approvals in Marketplace 2.0, this is the platform where you can upload communication materials and request approval for claims and trademarks.
Kindly note, retailers or foodservice companies that require traceability will need to register in the Rainforest Alliance Certification Program (RACP), through the respective registration flow, to obtain a certificate, a trademarks approval and a traceability account.
What is traceability?
Traceability is the capability to follow a product from the brand owner back through the supply chain. Traceability is essential to ensure that products sold as Rainforest Alliance Certified comply with this promise. Traceability refers to the documentation that tracks the flows of certified volumes throughout the supply chain.
How can I get traceability for my private label and non-branded products?
Once you have obtained a supply chain certificate and license, your entity will have access to an online traceability account. With this account you can receive traceability of your Rainforest Alliance Certified private label and non-branded products throughout the supply chain.
How do I engage in traceability?
Engaging in traceability is now optional for all crops. Note that traceability is only mandatory for sectors where the retailer is responsible for the payment of SD/SI. This is the case when retailers are importer of banana and fresh fruits or are first buyer for coffee, cocoa, coconut oil, hazelnut, processed fruits, herbs & spices, other crops.
For all products retailers that wish to engage in traceability only have to request from their manufacturers to issue a sales transaction of the certified product to them, and they review and confirm receipt of the incoming transactions in the traceability platform. The private label manufactures of retailers that do not wish to engage in traceability, can redeem their volumes without issuing transactions to a retailer.
For tea, engaging in traceability has also become optional. The traceability will end with the packer (private label manufacturer) of the tea product. The packer will be required to commit, confirm and pay the SD/SI contribution to the Farm Certificate Holder (via the Rainforest Alliance payment facility) and redeem the volumes.
If you wish to opt-in to traceability for your private label tea, meaning you will have full traceability of your Rainforest Alliance Certified tea in the traceability system, you need to make this known to your packers and you will be required to take over the SD/SI commitment, confirm and redeem volumes from the traceability platform and pay SD/SI through the Rainforest Alliance payment facility. In this case, the packer of your private label tea products will issue sales transactions of the certified products in the traceability system. You can get access to traceability reporting data and can request to do percentage claims on the volumes of private label Rainforest Alliance certified tea you source.
Taking over the responsibility to commit and pay tea SD SI will make you fall into Verification Level B, meaning that if you purchase over 100MT made tea, an audit will be required. In this audit it will be verified that effective traceability is in place, because correct SD/SI implementation relies on traceability of volumes from the producer to the entity responsible for payment.
Can I stop making use of traceability?
In Rainforest Alliance certification, traceability up to retail level is an optional feature for all brand and private label crops. If you wish to stop making use of traceability, you need to inform your manufacturers they don’t need to issue sales transactions of certified products to you anymore. In case of tea, you would need to request you packer to take over the commitment and payment of SD/SI in the traceability platform and redeem the tea volumes from the traceability platform.
Only if retailers are the first buyer or importer (for example of fresh fruit / hazelnuts) and thus responsible for the payment of SD/ SI, engaging in traceability to retail level is required and cannot be stopped.
What are the latest SD/SI requirements for retailers that are brand owner of made tea products?
Based on feedback we received in 2022 from retailers who are brand owners for Rainforest Alliance Certified tea products. We understand the challenges in implementing our new and ambitious certification program, and took measures to ensure that our process can be implemented by retailers, foodservice companies and their packers, and reduce the administrative effort required for them to do so.
Click on the two questions directly below this question for detailed guidance on the adjusted SD/SI requirements for both tea brand owners and private label manufacturers.
Core adjustments for retail brand owners of made tea:
- Retail brand owners remain responsible for tea SD and SI payments to farm CHs supplying into their private label product(s) and the volumes in their certified tea footprint: they are required to include SD SI in the contract price negotiations with their packers, at the latest from contracts valid from 1 January 2024 onwards and are responsible for reimbursing packers for all SD and SI paid in volumes transacted in 2023.
- From 1 January 2023 onwards, the requirements around commitment and payment of SD/SI will lie with private label packers for all tea volumes redeemed from the traceability platform on behalf of a retail brand owner.
- Retail brand owners will no longer receive verification level B as a result of tea brand ownership, meaning that tea brand ownership alone is not a reason for retail brand owners to require an audit.
- In 2023 there will be no changes to the guidance amounts for SD and SI: SD no less than USD10/MT and SI no less than USD40/MT. These guidance amounts are non-binding: the Supply Chain Certificate Holder can commit and pay any level of SD/SI.
- Retail brand owners will need to have systems in place to make payments of SD/SI to their packers for tea volumes packed on their behalf.
- Retail brand owners can opt-in on tea traceability. In that case they need to inform their packer, request them to transact tea volumes to them in the traceability platform, confirm transactions of tea volumes in the traceability platform and take over the commitment and payment of SD and SI for their Rainforest Alliance Certified tea products. Opting in on tea traceability, offers retailers the possibility to get traceability reporting and make percentage-based claims on their Rainforest Alliance Certified tea purchases. It will make those retailers fall into verification level B, which could make a remote audit necessary. This audit would only apply to retailers that purchase over 100MT of tea per annum.
These adjustments are also applicable to foodservice company brand owners of made tea.
These decisions are currently being included in the binding documents and related guidance and will soon be published.
In case you already received a verification level B because you are a retail brand owner for tea, we ask you to contact email@example.com to update your profile.
If you have already scheduled a remote audit because of the previous requirements for retail brand owners of tea, or for any questions on traceability, please contact your Rainforest Alliance account manager or the Customer Success Team.
What are the latest SD/SI requirements for private label manufacturers that supply made tea to retail brand owners?
Core adjustments for private label manufacturers that pack tea are that:
- Private label packers no longer need to transact tea volumes to retail brand owners (unless a brand owner informs them they opt-in on traceability, and take over the responsibility to commit and pay SD/SI). Instead, they can redeem and trace out tea volumes from the traceability platform which will trigger the SD/SI payment requirement.
- On behalf of their retail brand owners, private label packers need to commit and pay SD/SI for all tea volumes redeemed from the traceability platform from 1 January 2023 onwards. The Rainforest Alliance will manage payments between brand owner and the farm certificate holders via a 3P payment facility now being set up.
- The private label packer will be audited to verify commitment and payment of SD and SI.
- In 2023 there will be no changes to the guidance amounts for SD and SI: SD no less than USD10/MT and SI no less than USD40/MT. These guidance amounts are non-binding: the SC CH can commit and pay any level of SD/SI.
- SD SI needs to be included in contract prices between brand owner and packer latest from January 1, 2024. Packers enter SD/SI commitments in the traceability platform according to those contracts and effect SD SI payment on retail brand owner’s behalf.
By making these adjustments, Rainforest Alliance hopes to better facilitate retailers, foodservice companies and private label manufacturers to reward sustainability efforts of producers and contribute toward the investments needed to become and remain certified.
These decisions are currently being included in the binding documents and related guidance and will soon be published.
What certification requirements apply to retailers and foodservice companies?
The Rainforest Alliance has a specific set of requirements that retailers and foodservice companies must meet to become certified.
How to interpret requirement 1.1.4 about due diligence?
Retailers do not need to create a brand-new policy if one is in place, they may use an existing policy and adjust it to incorporate the required elements. The retailer considers the OECD Guidelines when drafting their policies and commits to comply with them. Note that the requirement outlines a potential tool for compliance, but satisfying the requirement is not limited to a code of conduct. Other documents that address these points may be used to comply. This requirement dictates that this policy is in place and is disseminated throughout their operations and business relationships, having a mechanism to review each business relationships compliance with these policies is not part of this requirement. The intent of this requirements is for companies to work toward full due diligence and provide them with the framework to prepare for new upcoming national legislation in certain countries.
In case your policy adaptation process takes longer than the 31 dec 2022 deadline, you may make use of the policy to close none conformities with a plan until July 2023.
How to interpret requirement 1.2.3 about the list of suppliers?
Retailers are required to have a process in place for how they verify that their suppliers are Rainforest Alliance Certified according to the RA 2020 standard.
How to interpret requirement 1.4.1 about internal inspection?
This requirement is only applicable if part of a multi-site certificate. Remote inspections can be conducted for office locations. An internal inspection system shall be in place by the administrator of the multi-site certificate. This internal inspection consists of reviewing the implementation of the standard requirements for each site and highlighting compliance issues where they might exist. A record of each inspection is to be kept and is available.
How to interpret requirement 1.4.2 about the self-assessment?
This requirement has not been contextualized for private label brand owners (retailers & foodservice companies). The guidance is the same for all supply chain actors. As part of the registration process, supply chain actors download a self-assessment from the RACP (Rainforest Alliance Certification Platform). The self-assessment includes all requirements that are applicable to the specific supply chain actor.
With the self-assessment, the supply chain actor indicates to the Rainforest Alliance and/or an independent auditor (if applicable) that it is in compliance with the requirements, based on credible and consistent assessment results.
Supply Chain Actors with an individual certificate (no multi-side certificate) can base the self-assessment on previous audit reports, evidence collected within the organization or a capacity assessment. Supply Chain Actors with a multi-site certificate must also include evidence collected during the “Internal Inspection”, an annual process to check the compliance of the main site and all sub-sites with the relevant standard requirements.
All supply chain actors are required to annually fill in the self-assessment and upload it in the RACP as part of the certification process.
How to interpret requirement 1.5.1 about the grievance mechanism?
This requirement has been contextualized for private label brand owners (retailers & foodservice companies):
The scope of the grievance mechanism is only for the location certified, which is usually the office location of the entity purchasing the Rainforest Alliance Certified private label product. The grievance mechanism is meant to gather complaints of those being negatively affected by specific business activities and/or operations of any nature. The grievance mechanism must include appropriate submission channels for internal and external stakeholders of the certified location.
How to interpret requirement 2.2.4 about approval for trademark use?
Certificate holder needs to be able to demonstrate to the auditor that they have process for requesting approvals in place for any use of the Rainforest Alliance trademarks for which they are the brand owner. This process can include communication with manufacturers, contracts where this is explicit or records of those approvals being available in cases where the retailer is not the one getting these approvals.
How to interpret requirement 2.1.13 about the validity of Rainforest Alliance claims?
This requirement is relevant for retailers who are making additional global claims and we need to verify the accuracy of those claims. You can find more information in our Labeling and Trademarks Policy.