2014 Sustainability and Certification Workshop—Post Workshop Resources

Date: May 7, 2014
Location: New York, New York

Agenda and Panelists and Presenters

Tensie Whelan's Presentation

Event Summary

Opening Remarks

Bruce Schlein, director of corporate sustainability at Citi, welcomed participants to the 2014 Rainforest Alliance Sustainability & Certification Workshop. As someone who works closely with markets, Schlein has noted that sustainable practices reduce risks, lower costs, generate higher yields and deliver better value for consumers. Therefore, bringing sustainable businesses to scale can be of great value to actors throughout the supply chain, and financial instruments that can assist in the growth of sustainable businesses have great potential to help transform industry.

Panel: Challenges and Opportunities: Helping Producers Adopt Sustainable Practices

Annemieke Wijn, a member of the Rainforest Alliance Board of Directors, led panelists in a discussion on sustainability in various aspects of production.

Arnaldo Eijsink, CEO of Grupo JD reflected on his experience leading his company to becoming the first Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cattle operation, emphasizing that quality comes before quantity in their business model.

Rajeev Takru, director of plantations for McLeod Russel India Limited, spoke about the company’s Rainforest Alliance Certified tea plantations and the industry’s shifting priorities. Thirty-five years ago, it was standard practice to cut down forests, and no one talked about environmental issues. Now, as countries around the world experience marked changes in rainfall and temperature patterns and other climate change-related phenomena, businesses are finally changing their practices.

Nell Newman, co-founder and president of Newman’s Own Organics, spoke about sourcing cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in the Dominican Republic. With the help of the Rainforest Alliance, Newman’s Own Organics has seen an increase in cocoa quality and a 30-40 percent increase in production. This has positively impacted cocoa farmers, increasing their income and inspiring pride in their work.

According to Kingsley Brown, president of Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association (NSLFFPA), raising property values for landowners was crucial during the inception of his company. They accomplished this in large part by obtaining Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for their forest operations. Since then, NSLFFPA has seen increases in productivity from 23 to 90 percent.

Panel: Sustainable Lifestyles: Fashion, Fun, Entertainment and Travel

Dubbed “the fun panel” by moderator and member of the Rainforest Alliance Board of Directors Wendy Gordon, panelists discussed sustainable lifestyles and the role of sustainably produced guitars, toys, cosmetics and more. The group noted a trend of increasingly discerning consumers demanding ethical products.

Gregory Paul, chief technology officer of C.F. Martin & Co., Inc., emphasized the importance of sourcing sustainable raw materials. Now that consumers expect companies to engage in environmentally friendly practices, relying on third party certification programs such as Rainforest Alliance certification helps C.F. Martin & Co., Inc. stand apart from the competition.

Alex Silvester, senior sustainability engineer at Mattel, Inc., shared the progress his company has made thanks to the Rainforest Alliance’s critical analysis of the risks in its supply chain. One area for improvement identified by the Rainforest Alliance was Mattel’s lack of communication around its sustainability successes, such as acquiring 83 percent of their packaging material from sustainable sources.

Thanks to the Rainforest Alliance’s support, 96 percent of Oriflame Cosmetics’ catalogues now use FSC certified materials, shared Antonia Simon-Stenberg, the company’s senior advisor of sustainability. Ninety-four percent of its cardboard and other packaging materials are now FSC certified as well.

Leilani Latimer is the head of marketing at Sabre, a company that helps to provide technology to the travel industry. According to a recent survey, 51 percent of corporate meeting planners will choose only sustainable hotels for their events, while 70 percent indicate a preference for sustainable hotels. Consequently, Sabre is working with the Rainforest Alliance to establish a new standard for sustainability in the hospitality sector.

2013-2014 Report: Rainforest Alliance Impacts

Rainforest Alliance president Tensie Whelan gave an update on the organization’s activities and milestones. There are now 1.1 million certified farms in 43 countries, 160 million acres of certified forestland in 49 countries and 929 verified tourism businesses and organizations. The Rainforest Alliance has also certified 5.37 million acres of farmland in 45 projects in 10 countries to comprehensive carbon standards, helping to mitigate climate change.

We have also expanded beyond commodities like cocoa and coffee, certifying the first dairy farm in Costa Rica and the first palm oil cooperative in Honduras. The Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable finance unit has grown, investing more resources in connecting farmers to lines of credit in order to scale up their operations.

Finally, the “Follow the Frog” campaign continues to attract increasing attention, even appearing in McDonald’s and Taco Bell commercials!

In her presentation on sustainable marketing, Diane Jukofsky, the Rainforest Alliance’s vice president of communications, emphasized that the focus should not be on changing how companies communicate, but rather on changing what is communicated. Companies need to change what it means to be a “better product.” Consumers are growing increasingly sophisticated and expect companies to deliver for the environment.

Joel Lunenfeld, VP of Global Brand Strategy for Twitter, spoke about the power of social media and the ability to harness it for good causes. On an average day, there are 342,000 tweets related to environmental issues; on Earth Day 2014, that number surpassed 1.2 million. Both Virgin Group and Twitter themselves have had great success in leveraging this energy for their own charitable causes. Lunenfeld suggested that companies encourage consumers to take photos of products with the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and use the hashtags #followthefrog and #tweetyourfrog in order to help increase visibility for both their products and the seal.

Daniel R. Katz, co-founder of the Rainforest Alliance and chairman of the Board of Directors, spoke about the changes at Rainforest Alliance over the last 28 years. While many things have changed for the better, there is still much left to accomplish. Companies are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their branding and operations. It is up to them, and certification bodies like Rainforest Alliance, to have a unified message when communicating the value of sustainability to consumers with changing values. Katz asked the corporate representatives in the room to look to the future and invest in it, and to think about where we can be 30 years from now.

Thank you!

The Rainforest Alliance sincerely thanks all participants for their engagement, commitment, passion and creativity. It is through your efforts to certify and promote sustainable management that we are able to achieve our mission to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.

We would like to give special thanks to Citi for sponsoring the workshop.

Forest canopy - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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