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.
Rainforest Alliance Certification Support
Do you want to foster responsible business practices and transparency through the supply chain for your private label or non-branded product? We can help you. Register for our Certification Program!
1. Which retail and foodservice companies need to become part of the Rainforest Alliance Certification Program?
A retailer or foodservice company should register for certification in 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.
2. Certification steps overview
Our Quick Start Guide Registration for Retailers outlines the registration process for our Certification Program. Do you need more support during the registration process?
- Our RACP video tutorials are available to guide you through the registration process in RACP.
- Our webinar on ‘Extending Certification to Retail & Foodservice companies’ provides an overview of all steps of RACP that are necessary to get your certification license. The webinar also touches upon seal use, SD and SI and traceability.
3. What certification requirements apply to retailers and foodservice companies?
A specific sub-set of supply chain requirements of the 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard applies to retailers and foodservice companies that are looking to become certified. This list is specified below. 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 (multi-site certification) that perform those activities. If this is the case, more requirements will apply to your company.
List of requirements for individually certified retailer and foodservice companies that only conduct retail activities:
- Requirement 1.1.4: Due Diligence
- Requirement 1.1.5: Committees (only for grievance mechanism)
- Requirement 1.2.2: List of suppliers
- Requirement 1.4.2: Self-assessment
- Requirement 1.5.1: Grievance mechanism
- Requirement 2.1.13: Validity of Rainforest Alliance claims
- Requirement 2.2.2: Traceability
- Requirement 2.2.4: Approval for trademark use
Retailer or foodservice companies that are also the actors in the supply chain responsible for paying and/or recording the Sustainability Differential and/or Sustainability Investment, are also required to comply with requirements 3.2 and 3.3. The responsible for the payment of SD/SI is specified in the applicability table titled ’SC CH responsible for SD/SI” on this webpage.
- Requirement 3.2: Sustainability Differential
- Requirement 3.3: Sustainability Investment
4. Rainforest Alliance Certification Platform
If you are registering to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification, please go to the Rainforest Alliance Certification and Traceability Platform (RACP). 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, to get a license and show compliance with the applicable certification requirements for retailers.
5. Self-assessment guidance
Download, complete and upload the self-assessment
To download your self-assessment, follow the steps below:
- Go to the section ‘Certification Overview’ and then click on the ‘Details’ button of the license in Pending status.
- Click on the ‘License preparation’ tab.
- In the section ‘self-assessment’, click ‘Open’.
- Download your self-assessment.
- The self-assessment includes all requirements for Supply Chain actors. An individually certified retailer only needs to respond to the specific requirements for retailers and foodservice companies as described above.
- Requirements that do not apply to retailers, you can write in N/A (not applicable).
- For the applicable requirements, fill out column D with conformity” or “non-conformity”. Fill out in column E how your company is complying with each requirement. If you are not complying, please fill in columns F – I explaining what steps and measures have been taken to solve this non-conformity.
- When ready, upload your self-assessment in the same section. Click ‘Upload your file’.
6. Guidance for the interpretation of the requirements
This general guide aims to assist Certificate Holders with the implementation of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. It includes the following content for each of the requirements of the Standard:
- Guidance on applicability
- Implementation guidance
- Evidence and indicators
- Annexes and other references
7. Example self-assessment
An example of a self-assessment that can help you to fill out the self-assessment can be found here. This self-assessment is tailored to retailers.
Support Outside of Certification
The Rainforest Alliance also supports retail and foodservice companies outside of certification:
- 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.
- 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, and living wage, among other topics. Interested? Write to our tailored services team to get started.
- Providing 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 – Registration
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 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.
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 have transitioned by this point in time. Those partners who still need support during the certification registration process, we encourage to reach out to us.
Certification – Supply chain risk assessment
What is the supply chain risk assessment?
As part of the Rainforest Alliance’s process for certification, partners are requested to complete a Supply Chain Risk Assessment (SCRA). The SCRA evaluates the potential risks of an organization’s operations on individual site level to determine the type and frequency of verification that it will need to comply with Rainforest Alliance requirements.
A company’s risk 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 site. These factors then feed into a risk calculation which lands an organization in one of the five verification levels.
The verification 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. Retail and foodservice companies that don’t conduct non-retail activities, like manufacturing and/or packing, will most likely receive the lowest risk profile: verification level A. Partners with verification level A will only need an internal Rainforest Alliance desk review, not an audit.
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.
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 ’ and ‘brand owner’ as activities 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 traceability and traceability levels in the Traceability User Guidance Manual, and/or in the traceability annex of the standard: Annex Chapter 2: Traceability (Previous Annex S06).
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.
When will I receive verification level A?
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.
All Retail or Foodservice company sites or locations that do not engage in processing or other non-retail activities will most likely 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. This means that they can get a license and certificate after a self-assessment process, without a remote audit from a Certification Body. If a company has activities other than retail in its certification scope (e.g. trading raw material, manufacturing/ 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 – email@example.com.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a retailer, and already received a verification level B. What do I need to do?
Please contact email@example.com to get this corrected by updating your profile.
I am a retailer. 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). All Retail or Foodservice company sites or locations that do not engage in processing, packing 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. Verification level A means that they can get a license and certificate after a self-assessment process, without a remote audit from a Certification Body.
If a company has activities other than retail in its certification scope (e.g. trading raw material, manufacturing/processing) other verification levels may still apply (including a possible remote audit), 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.
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. In this way you share one License agreement. Yet, you cannot add a single site to a multi-site and then have separate License Agreements for each.
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.
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.