The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard is the standard used to certify farms and farmer groups involved in crop and cattle production. The Rainforest Alliance’s longstanding partner, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), which owns the 2017 SAN Standard, has granted the Rainforest Alliance an exclusive and perpetual license to the 2017 SAN Standard. To reflect the full ownership of the certification program by the Rainforest Alliance, from November 2017 onwards, the standard is known as the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
Beyond the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, the Rainforest Alliance manages the Certification Rules and all other policies and requirements associated with the sustainable agriculture certification program. Further management of the certification program includes authorizing and training certification bodies, audit protocols, safeguarding transparency, maintaining the certification database, engaging stakeholders, and ensuring the overall quality of the certification program.
We own the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal and manage its use by producers whose farms have been certified by one of our authorized certification bodies. We also manage the traceability system, claims, and trademarks.
Certification Bodies are independent organizations that conduct audits to determine whether a farm has complied—or continues to comply, in the case of a farm that is already certified—with the Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
Audited and Certified Organizations
Rainforest Alliance certification helps to ensure that farms are environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable. A system as comprehensive as this cannot be effectively implemented, managed, and expanded without incurring expenses.
Farmers pay the certification body of their choice for its audit services. The Rainforest Alliance does not regulate audit costs, which can vary significantly depending on the size of the operation being evaluated. Smallholders may organize an internal management system and seek certification as a group, thereby reducing their auditing and administrative expenses. Farmers are also responsible for all costs associated with meeting the certification requirements (for example, taking parts of their farm area out of production to comply with buffer-zone widths, implementing new practices, building infrastructure, etc.).
Certification Bodies pay a fee to the entity of their choice that accredits them against ISO/IEC 17065. Accreditation against ISO/IEC 17065 is a pre-requisite for authorization by the Rainforest Alliance.
The Rainforest Alliance incurs costs that arise from standards and policies development and interpretation, managing a certification database and a quality control system for certification bodies, managing complaints and appeals, tracing certified products throughout the supply chain to validate certification claims, promoting the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal in the marketplace, measuring impact, and creating communications tools that raise public awareness.
To cover these program expenses, in 2010 the Rainforest Alliance introduced a single charge on companies that directly benefit from Rainforest Alliance certification. Known as the Participation Royalty, for the use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and other intellectual property associated with it, this levy is collected once, from businesses in the middle of the supply chain (i.e., those that buy and sell goods produced on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms).
Companies that are responsible for paying the royalty must sign a licensing agreement that discloses the amount of the royalty and outlines how the charge will be collected. Currently, the royalty is levied only on coffee, cocoa, tea, and bananas, though eventually it will be extended to cover crops from all certified farms. The rate charged is based on the volume of certified goods purchased, and it varies by crop as follows: