The Rainforest Alliance is committed to continuously improve and strengthen its certification programs. After a two-year comprehensive analysis on the necessary evolution of certification, we have developed a set of ambitious and pragmatic approaches, fortified by advanced monitoring techniques, to improve our cocoa certification program.
We are extremely proud of our strengthened program and are ready to share it with the world.
The plan includes these key elements:
- Cocoa Assurance Plan Phase 2
- Improved livelihoods and the Sustainability Differential
- Fast-tracking of elements in the 2020 Rainforest Alliance Certification Program
- The future of Mass Balance in cocoa
- Shared Responsibility and Responsible Business Practices
- New Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Seal
Below you find the concrete measures on each of the topics.
Cocoa Assurance Plan Phase 2
Extending the pause on new certified farmer groups in cocoa
We will extend the temporary pause on further expansion of our UTZ and Rainforest Alliance cocoa certification programs in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire for 2020-2021. This enables us to focus our efforts on improving the quality of our current certified groups through controlled growth.
- Certificate holders must submit a GPS point for 100% of their farms’ location to the Rainforest Alliance by June 2020;
- Certificate holders and /or first buyers must submit farm polygons where these exist, before June 2020;
- The Rainforest Alliance will implement a deforestation mapping tool to identify and address wider deforestation risk beginning 2021;
- The Rainforest Alliance will limit the growth of existing certified farmer groups – allowing only 10% growth of existing groups through the inclusion of farmers from the same geographic area.
Applying the pause on new certified farmer groups to Nigeria and Cameroon
We will extend coverage of the West Africa Cocoa Assurance Plan to Nigeria and Cameroon where similar risks are likely to emerge. This starts with the following measures:
- A pause on expansion of the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance cocoa certification programs through the addition of new farmer groups;
- Certificate holders must submit a GPS point for 100% of their farms’ location to the Rainforest Alliance, starting with audits in September 2020;
- The Rainforest Alliance will limit the growth of existing certified farmer groups – allowing only growth of existing groups through the inclusion of farmers from the same geographic area.
Introducing allocation system for Certification Bodies
- The Rainforest Alliance will introduce a new risk-based Certification Body allocation system by June 2020. This means that the Rainforest Alliance will allocate specific Certification Bodies to conduct each certificate holder audit;
- The Rainforest Alliance will establish a standard cost model for audits based on among others: minimum audit duration, auditor competence and interview sampling;
- Certificate holders will pay Certification Bodies prior to the audit and specific audit dates will not be announced to certificate holders in advance. Instead, an audit time frame window will be provided.
The allocation system for Certification Bodies will initially be implemented in the cocoa certification programs in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. However, if the measure shows significant positive impact it will potentially be expanded to other Rainforest Alliance certification programs.
Strengthening assurance by improving audit quality and certificate holder compliance monitoring
- Increase monitoring by independent organizations, targeting all Certification Bodies with the focus on those auditing high-risk farmer groups, with active follow up of required improvements;
- Provide regular monitoring of certificate holder groups by Rainforest Alliance staff to identify risks and target additional verification and support where needed.
The Rainforest Alliance aims to apply the learnings from these actions to all its certification programs in the future.
Investments by the Rainforest Alliance
For the benefit of the West Africa Cocoa Assurance Plan, the Rainforest Alliance will:
- Invest an additional $2.1 million over two years to strengthen assurance through increased Certificate Holder and Certification Body monitoring, improved risk assessment tools and systems, and eleven new staff to support cocoa assurance (six based in African countries and five in Amsterdam);
- Undertake third party supply chain analysis for companies with sourcing operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to identify ways to improve assurance around first mile traceability and other priority risks in the supply chain including deforestation and child labor;
- Implement new IT and data systems for certificate holder Internal Management Systems that will be rolled out in the new standard from June 2021;
- Promote expanded use of IT based tools for first mile traceability;
- Dedicate $5 million to support Rainforest Alliance Certified producers in implementing new standard and assurance requirements.
Next steps in 2021 and beyond
Based on the learnings from the implementation of the West Africa Cocoa Assurance Plan, the Rainforest Alliance will roll out relevant measures and learnings to additional certification-led priority sectors and geographies in 2021.
The Rainforest Alliance is introducing a mandatory “Sustainability Differential” in the cocoa certification programs from October 2020. We are also introducing Sustainability Investments. This combined approach consists of:
- Sustainability Differential: a cash amount per metric ton paid to individual farmers;
- Sustainability Investments: investments at farmer group level (cash and/or in-kind);
- Complemented by mandatory reporting on investments by first buyers.
The Sustainability Differential will be applicable to all Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa farmers globally. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the Sustainability Differential will be required in addition to the Living Income Differential.
We will publish guidance on the Sustainability Differential and Sustainability Investments (SD & SI) together with the new standard in June 2020. This will provide cocoa-specific guidance on implementation with our new standard. We will also provide more details on how we are introducing these SD & SI measures in our current UTZ/RA programs to help ease the transition.
In the 2020-2021 introduction phase we will start transitioning all current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certified groups in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to the new Sustainability Differential & Shared Investment approach. The new requirements can be found in the Cocoa Policy published on April 14, 2020. SD & SI requirements will be extended globally under the New Rainforest Alliance Standard from July 2021 onwards.
Fast-tracking of elements in the 2020 Rainforest Alliance Certification Program
In June 2020 we will publish our new Certification Program which will introduce several new requirements, becoming mandatory in mid-2021. As part of the new measures to strengthen our cocoa certification programs, we will implement some of these requirements by October 2020:
- Rainforest Alliance Certified farmer groups are required to implement a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System;
- Double farm cocoa certification (UTZ and Rainforest Alliance) will be eliminated for cocoa in West Africa.
The future of mass balance in cocoa
The Rainforest Alliance will move toward a country of origin matching mass balance approach beginning Q3 2020.
Shared responsibility and responsible business practices
The Rainforest Alliance is working towards greater shared responsibility across supply chains. We are seeking to fundamentally change the dynamics within the existing supply chain system by sharing the responsibility for sustainability improvements at all levels, from the field to company boardroom. With this in mind we will introduce the following measures for all Rainforest Alliance certification programs:
- First buyers in the supply chain will need to report on annual certification investments in specific areas. The details of this are to be finalized but will potentially include: implementation of digital Internal Management System, implementation of a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, collection and validation of GPS data and audit costs. This is to give supply chain actors access to data for better risk mitigation and reporting, and the ability to make more specific sourcing claims based on the performance of their supply chain;
- The Rainforest Alliance will facilitate more transparency on reporting of the Sustainability Differential throughout the supply chain.
New Rainforest Alliance Certification seal
The Rainforest Alliance has introduced a refreshed and modernized Rainforest Alliance certification seal to be used on product packaging by companies. As part of the new measures to strengthen our cocoa certification programs, we will:
- Accelerate the launch of the new seal for Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa products, linking the access to and use of the new seal to the new farm and supply chain requirements as described above;
- Share the new seal, usage guidelines and technical guides with companies by May 2020;
- Allow product packaging with the new seal to be sold from September 1, 2020;
- Require the phase out of the existing Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and the UTZ label on cocoa products beginning September 1, 2020;
- Launch a consumer and company marketing campaign around the new seal a in September 2020.
Read more about the new Rainforest Alliance certification seal, as well as the timelines for transitioning and phasing out the current Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and UTZ label here.