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.
To determine what requirements and guidance applies, the Rainforest Alliance looks at the activities a company conducts. The Rainforest Alliance considers as a retailer any company that only purchases and sells labeled, final products and/or fresh fruits to consumers. The same requirements and guidance apply to foodservice companies (e.g., restaurants, caterers) if they are not engaged in manufacturing and are brand owners.
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 sustainability issues we focus on such as regenerative agriculture, carbon measurements, landscape restoration, living wage, among other topics. Interested? Write to our tailored services team to get started.
Certification decision tree
Our certification decision tree can help you understand whether you need to register for certification and why. Guidance on how to do so can be found in the FAQ below.
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 , reach out to our marketing team at firstname.lastname@example.org or get our ready-to-use Company Marketing Communication Toolkit for Point of Sale.
FAQ for Retailers and Foodservice Companies
Certification – General
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 products 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.
Certification – Retail requirements
What certification requirements apply to retailers and foodservice companies?
A specific sub set of requirements of the certification program applies to retailers and foodservice companies to become certified. Specific guidelines for interpreting each requirement will follow soon. You may need to comply with additional requirements if your entity or location performs other activities than retail, 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, more requirements will apply to your company. You will receive the applicable requirements based on the activities registered in RACP.
List of retailer- specific requirements in the Rainforest Alliance 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard:
1.1.4 Due Diligence
1.2.2 List of suppliers
1.4.1 Internal inspection
1.5.1 Grievance mechanism
2.1.13 Validity of Rainforest Alliance claims
2.2.4 Approval for trademark use
3.2 and 3.3. Sustainability Differential and Sustainability Investment
What happens if your company cannot comply with the standard requirements on time?
The Rainforest Alliance asks all Supply Chain company partners that are not fully compliant with the requirements that are applicable to them, to develop an action plan. Companies must create a plan to address the nonconformity and then begin implementing that plan prior to the non-conformity being closed. During the next years verification (whether by the Rainforest Alliance or by a Certification Body), this plan needs to be fully implemented and resolved. This action plan needs to be uploaded in the “License Preparation” tab within the “Documents” section of your RACP Certification Profile.
Companies that have policies and practices in line with the Rainforest Alliance requirements, but implemented in a slightly different way than the way established in the 2020 Certification standard, can contact their certification body, or include the information in their self-assessment tool to see if their way of implementation can also be accepted by the Rainforest Alliance. There is a helpful FAQ section within the self-assessment tool.
Certification – Registration
Are you looking for guidance materials when registering for certification?
The following guidance materials could be of use for you when registering for certification.
- 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 18th October, 2022 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.
What information do I need to provide for registration?
If you are registering to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, please go to RACP, 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 ID. With this information you can open an account. You will then have to follow the process outlined in the platform.
By when is our company expected to be certified?
Our certification program is new for retailers and foodservice companies, we recognize that registration and full participation takes time. Our expectation is that existing partners make good faith efforts to complete Certification Program requirements from January-June 2023, and to contact the Rainforest Alliance if support is needed.
In which ways can you create your certification profile?
A certification profile can be set up in different ways. By defining the certification scope, you must indicate the site(s) you want to certify. It can be composed of:
- your central management location
- and any other additional site(s) you might want to certify (if applicable).
By including only your central management site into the certification profile, you are setting up a single-site certification. When adding any additional sites to your certification scope, you are aiming for a multi-site certification. Below you can find more details for setting up a single-site or multi-site certification.
- Locations actively purchasing and managing contracts of Rainforest Alliance Certified products/ingredients for their private label products should get certified individually.
- All company entities have their own certificate.
- Each entity has to register separately in the system, only indicating the crops that they individually purchase as certified private label.
- Each entity has their own traceability account, which can enable traceability and data reporting for each subsidiary’s supply chain.
- No need for coordination between the main site and the other entities.
- No need for an annual internal inspection. Yearly, each entity will need to fill in and upload a self-assessment as part of the certification process.
- Each entity has their own account for labelling approvals (if applicable and not done by suppliers). Users must be added to each account to be able to access labelling approval requests.
- If a company engages in traceability, then suppliers need to make sure they send the transactions to the right account/country.
- Entities that are not actively managing contracts of Rainforest Alliance Certified products/ingredients for private label can be grouped together for certification as a multi-site.
- A multi-site includes one certificate for all entities:
- One entity sets up a certificate and includes the different entities in their scope as sites, the entities will be under one profile. This is the main site /central administration site.
- This main site/ central administration site will be the name on the certificate, also called the ‘certificate holder’.
- All entities are added in an annex of the certificate.
- A multi-site is applicable to entities (sites) with the same central administration.
- The main site is responsible for the compliance of all sites in the scope of the certificate.
- The main site is required to do an internal inspection (self-assessment) once per year for all subsidiaries on the certificate (one self-assessment for all subsidiaries).
- The main site manages all transactions/contracts, all trademark approvals, possible all SD SI activities if those apply.
- One traceability account for the entire group, which means all traceability information and financial information is visible to all sites.
- Traceability data, SD SI data or data about impact in origin will not be differentiated per a subsidiary’s supply chains, there is just one report.
- One shared account for all Labelling approvals (if applicable). All users from different entities are added under this account and all labelling approval requests are visible to users active in the account.
- If engaging in traceability, suppliers will only have 1 RA ID (RA_XXXXXXXXX) to send transactions to, instead of multiple.
- Entities must be under the same geographical scope.
- Audit sampling (if audit applies).
- In case of multi-site certification with sites in different verification levels, the CB shall audit the central location in every type of audit.
- The sampled sites are selected based on the risk categories in the Supply Chain Risk Assessment results for each site.
- Limitation: in a multisite scope, granting the license is dependent on all sites in the sample passing the audit. Meaning, all sites part of the sample need to pass the audit in order for the license for all sites to be granted.
I am a final point of sale for products that I prepare on site using Rainforest Alliance Certified products. Should I register?
Some of our partners prepare, package and sell private label Rainforest Alliance Certified final products at the point of sale. In some cases, the Rainforest Alliance seal is on the packaging. If you are a final point of sale, there are two separate processes. One involving your headquarter and separate responsibilities for you as point of sale.
- An out of home company brewing coffee (adding water, milk, other ingredients) and selling it in an Rainforest Alliance Certified labeled cup with lid as Ready To Drink.
- A grocery chain has in-store bakeries, that use baking mix with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa (adding water, milk or other ingredients) for preparing the bakery product and putting into a bag in the store.
- A café or tea shop selling Rainforest Alliance Certified own brand coffee or tea and filling the product into small bags at point of sale (e.g. 200g of coffee or 100g of tea).
Responsibilities Headquarters/Purchasing Unit
- The Headquarters/ Unit that is actively purchasing the coffee, tea, baking mix, etc. is in scope of certification for this private label Rainforest Alliance Certified product bulk product.
- If the company entity is also processing this Rainforest Alliance Certified bulk product, it has to register as a processor.
- If the company entity is a retailer and purchases the finished bulk product, it can register as retail / foodservice company.
- The purchasing entity (mostly Headquarters) is responsible for requesting approval for all packaging and marketing material used (in relation to the product) by their points of sale.
Responsibilities points of sale
- The individual points of sale preparing the Rainforest Alliance Certified product for consumers are not in scope of registration and certification.
- The responsibility for those points of sale is part of the headquarters’ responsibility, but they do not need to be added to the certification scope as sites.
- The individual points of sale don’t have a responsibility for the trademark approval requests for the packaging or marketing materials provided to them by their Headquarters. They don’t need trademark approval accounts, only if they individually want to prepare marketing materials.
Certification – Supply chain risk assessment
Any question you might have related to the Supply Chain Risk Assessment, including verification levels and possible audits, can be found on our webpage How to get supply chain certification: a guide for companies.
Certification – License agreement
What is a License Agreement (Version 2020)? How do I get one?
The license agreement is an agreement enabling certificate holders to use the Rainforest Alliance trademark, traceability platforms and claim products. A license agreement is provided when a certificate holder complies with all applicable standard requirements, and abides to 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.
How often do I need to update my license?
Every year all certified companies, including retailers and foodservice companies need to receive a new license. You are required to enter the RACP to check and confirm if information you provided earlier on hasn’t changed and resubmit for your verification level review. Companies can view the information they have filled out previously and make changes if needed. The system will notify you 6 months prior to the license expiration, in order to start the review process in time. A certificate is valid for 3 years, the license to trade needs to be renewed annually.
Certification – Royalties
As a retailer, do I need to pay royalties?
In most cases, royalties are paid earlier in the supply chain. Retailers only pay the royalty if they are the first buyer/direct importer for crops.
- Suppliers are responsible for paying royalties; these are volume-based and are charged once in each supply chain.
- Retailers must be aware costs associated with certification are incorporated in price negotiations and contracts as relevant (ensuring royalties are incorporated). For example, suppliers should include a breakdown of certification royalties in their price proposal to retailers.
- Royalties are paid to cover the Rainforest Alliance’s costs that arise from developing and managing their certification programme, maintaining databases, validating certification claims, measuring the impact of certification, raising public awareness, and promoting the Rainforest Alliance seal in the Marketplace.
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, your entity is not in scope for certification. You only need a trademark approval account.
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 or sustainability report. 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’.
Often, private label manufacturers submit labeling requests for retailers. If they do so, the retailer does not need to do this for on-pack claims.
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. Marketplace 2.0 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.
Has the use of trademarks and claims changed for the new program?
Until further notice, the use of trademarks remains in accordance with the Rainforest Alliance Labelling and Trademarks Policy. The current use of claims continues until a new procedure for the use of claims is in place.
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 in our traceability system, MultiTrace. MultiTrace can be accessed via the Rainforest Alliance Certification Platform (RACP). In MultiTrace you can receive traceability of your Rainforest Alliance Certified private label and non-branded products throughout the supply chain.
Do retailers and foodservice companies have to engage in traceability?
Engaging in traceability is optional for retailers and foodservice companies for all crops, except for the scenarios outlined below, where traceability to retail level remains mandatory for retailers or foodservice companies:
- SD SI payment: Retailer or foodservice company is responsible for SD/SI payments, these specific cases are outlined in the next section ‘How do I engage in traceability?’
- Participation royalty: Retailer or foodservice company is responsible for royalty payments according to the License Agreement General Terms and Conditions.
- Specific percentage and volume claims: Retailers and foodservice companies that want to make broad claims about a specific percentage or volume sourced as Rainforest Alliance Certified, will in the future be asked to engage in traceability to enable these claims. More information on this will follow with the publication of the still to be published claims policy. This is currently not applicable.
In the next section ‘How do I engage in traceability?’ more detailed guidance can be found.
A a retailer, do I need to engage in traceability?
The Rainforest Alliance stimulates retailers and foodservice companies to engage in traceability. At the moment, traceability is optional for retailers for all crops.
Note that traceability is only mandatory when 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. Traceability also remains mandatory for retailers that are responsible for royalty payments.
As a retailer, how do I engage in traceability?
Retailers and Foodservice companies can start to engage in traceability from the moment they have license and their Private Label Manufacturers are onboarded on the traceability platform and willing and able to engage in traceability up to retail level. How to do so, is described below. If you are interested in engaging in traceability up to retail level and need support, you can reach out to the Rainforest Alliance.
- Retailers that wish to engage in traceability for particular products, have to discuss this with the related manufacturers, and ask them to issue sales transactions of these products to them from an agreed date. To this end, retailers need to communicate their RACP account and related RA ID to their private label manufacturers. The retailer consequently reviews and confirms receipt of the incoming transactions (volumes) in the traceability platform.
- Retailers that do not engage in traceability are not issued transactions by their suppliers. Their suppliers can redeem the manufactured volumes from their own traceability account. Retailers don’t need to report to the Rainforest Alliance they don’t want to engage in traceability. If you are a Private Label Manufacturer, please do not issue transactions to pre-merger accounts (in Marketplace) or to retailers that did not request the transactions.
- If a retailer has not informed a private label manufacturer that it wishes to engage in traceability, the private label manufacturer may assume the retailer does not engage in traceability. The private label manufacturer can redeem the related volumes from the traceability platform without issuing transactions to the retailer.
- Also for made tea, engaging in traceability ends by default with the private label manufacturer of the tea product. The private label manufacturer is 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 a retailer wishes to engage in traceability for made tea, the retailer has to take over these responsibilities from the private label manufacturer. Meaning the retailer needs to commit SD/SI, confirm and redeem the related volumes from the traceability platform and pay SD/SI through the Rainforest Alliance payment facility.
How does a retailer engage in traceability for tea?
For tea, the traceability ends 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 engage in 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 to you in the traceability system. Engaging in traceability will give you access to traceability reporting data.
If you are interested in engaging in traceability up to retail level and need support, you can reach out to the Rainforest Alliance.
Can I stop making use of traceability?
For Rainforest Alliance certification, traceability up to retail level is an optional feature for all brand and private label products. 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 your 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 mandatory.
Shared responsibility: SD and SI – General
What is shared responsibility and how does it work?
Please visit our general SD/SI page to familiarize yourself with all you need/ like to know about shared responsibility, including an FAQ on the topic. For questions about what is required, and how to interpret those requirements, please refer to Annex Chapter 3: Income and Shared Responsibility.
When am I as foodservice/retail brand obliged to pay SD SI?
You are only the responsible for the payment of SD/SI when you are importer of banana and fresh fruits or are the first buyer for coffee, cocoa, coconut oil, hazelnut, processed fruits, other crops. The responsible for the payment of SD/SI is specified in the overview on this webpage.
For questions about the requirements, and how to interpret those requirements, please refer to Annex Chapter 3: Income and Shared Responsibility.
I am required to commit and pay SD/SI. To whom am I making the commitment on SD/SI levels?
This is effectively a commitment to the farm certificate holders in your certified footprint, via the Rainforest Alliance traceability platform. The commitment is to the producers who supplied your brand, not to the Rainforest Alliance.
Shared responsibility: SD and SI – Tea
Please visit our webpage Shared responsibility: What it means for the tea sector for any question you might have around SD and SI for tea.