While the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard forms the foundation of Rainforest Alliance certification, it is complemented by general Certification Rules and Policies on Pest Management. For certain countries and topics, additional policies have been developed as needed. Below is a brief summary of the various frameworks. See all binding documents and guidance applicable to audited and certified operations.
The Sustainable Agriculture Standard
The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard for farms and producer groups involved in crop and cattle production is based on our Theory of Change. A “Theory of Change” is a logical framework that defines the means by which a mission-driven organization seeks to achieve its core goals and objectives through targeted sets of activities or investments.
The Sustainable Agriculture Standard is rooted in the following sustainability principles:
Effective planning and management system
To make their businesses more sustainable and productive, farmers must keep an eye on their farms’ many social, environmental, and economic facets—e.g., how much energy and water is used, what percentage of their farm area is devoted to production, how many seasonal workers do they hire, and more. Certified farms implement an integrated farm-planning and -management system, establishing procedures and systems for ensuring continuous improvement on the path towards sustainable agriculture.
Certified farms protect their natural ecosystems and do not contribute to deforestation. They also help to conserve the broader landscape of which they are a part by maintaining wildlife corridors and aquatic ecosystems, and by avoiding negative impacts to nearby protected areas. They support the protection of endangered species and other native flora and fauna, by prohibiting hunting, safeguarding against the spread of invasive species, and taking steps to minimize human-wildlife conflict.
Natural Resource Conservation
The careful conservation of natural resources, such as water and soil, is a foundational basis for sustainable farming and helps to increase a farm’s resilience to climate change. Certified farms work to minimize soil erosion and compaction, improve soil fertility, treat wastewater, conserve water and energy, manage solid waste, and reduce the use of pesticides by applying integrated pest management techniques.
Improved Livelihoods and Human Well-being
Certified farms are good neighbors and good employers. They do not use forced labor or engage in labor discrimination, and they protect the health and well-being of all of their workers. Minors below the age of 15 years cannot be hired by a certified farm. Workers are paid at least the legal minimum wage and overtime rates of the country where the farm is located, and they have access to safe drinking water, healthcare, and education. Community rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, are fully respected.
Sustainable Cattle Production
On farms that include cattle in their certification scope, cattle are raised in accordance with responsible practices. Farms manage responsible animal husbandry through an animal welfare program. On farms and at their handling facilities, cattle are not mistreated. Animals are provided shelter, food, and water in sufficient quantity and quality to ensure good health and productivity. Certified cattle production systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved diet, optimized productivity, and manure and urine processing.
The Certification Rules define the rules for a single farm or a group administrator of several farms to become or remain certified to the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard for farms and producer groups involved in crop and cattle production. The Certification Rules include the description of the rights and obligations of audited and certified organizations, from the application until the moment the organization’s certificate is granted, suspended, or cancelled.
The Certification Rules also describe the Standard’s performance system. There are two types of criteria in the Standard: Critical and Continuous Improvement Criteria. The Critical Criteria establish the fundamental baseline for certified farms and producer groups, and cover the highest-priority and highest-risk environmental, social, and labor issues. The Continuous Improvement Criteria trigger a sequential progression of sustainability performance over a six-year period beginning with the first certification audit.
This performance system recognizes that sustainability is a path and a process over time, rather than a final or fixed destination. In order to remain certified, farms and group administrators have to demonstrate an increasingly higher degree of compliance with the Continuous Improvement Criteria over time.
Pesticide Management Policies
The objective of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard’s pesticide management approach is that highly hazardous pesticides are prohibited and pesticide risks to people, wildlife, aquatic ecosystems, and pollinators are minimized through targeted risk mitigation practices. Producers apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to minimize pest-related production losses. Reducing pesticide use and preventing negative effects of pest control activities benefits farmers, workers, communities, and natural ecosystems.
Managers of certified farms develop and implement an IPM plan that is based upon the prevention and monitoring of pests and aims to avoid economically significant crop losses while reducing pesticide risks. The farm managers also determine pest management steps based on the analysis of pest monitoring records. Pests are managed using biological controls or other non-chemical methods where feasible. When pesticides are used, preference is given to non-restricted low toxicity pesticides, and pesticides are applied only to the parts of the crop affected by pests. All workers involved in pest management activities are trained about the contents of the IPM plan.
To support the Sustainable Agriculture’s Standard’s criteria around pesticide management, two additional policies apply, which can be found in the Resource Library:
- Lists for Pesticide Management – lists of Prohibited and Risk Mitigation Use Pesticides of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard for farms’ and producer groups’ crop and cattle production.
- Exceptional Use of FAO / WHO Highly Hazardous Pesticides.
Local and Topic Specific Policies
For specific topics and for specific countries, additional policies may exist. While these documents are primarily designed to help certification bodies audit against the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, you can find the complete set of documents in the Resource Library.
For any questions, please contact our Certification Program team at firstname.lastname@example.org.