Q&A on the UTZ / Rainforest Alliance Merger

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced their intention to merge later this year.

Below are some questions and answers related to the merger.

Why are you merging?

We are at a critical point in the history of our planet. The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever. Climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food.

Our merger will give us a greater reach and a stronger voice, creating even more impact for farmers, communities, and our planet.

Together, we will create a unified standard for sustainable agriculture that combines the strengths of both organizations’ approaches, simplifying the certification process for farmers.

We will be a truly global organization, able to provide companies with better services and better solutions.

Our merger will enable us to innovate across our business activities, to invest in new technologies, and to advocate for the policy changes needed to create a world where people and the planet thrive together.

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But why a full merger, rather than other forms of collaboration?

By fully merging we can focus on our mission to build a world where nature is protected and biodiversity can flourish; where farmers, workers and communities can take control of their own destinies; where companies source responsibly and drive innovation throughout their supply chains. We can do this better as one organization. This will make it far easier to make key decisions - for example, what key commodities and programs to focus on, in which landscapes, and in which regions of the world.

The sustainability landscape is constantly evolving and we need to evolve and innovate to remain focused on increased impact. Our coming together means we will be able to continue to offer “gold standard” 3rd party certification, as well as work more broadly and deeply across sectors and in landscapes, through the creation of innovative and effective partnerships.

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Why now?

Both organizations are approaching the merger from a position of strength, with a track record of positive impact for farmers, forests, communities, and the environment. Combining the strengths of both organizations now will allow us to increase our impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers than we could if we remained separate. Through the talks we’ve been having over the several months, we’ve built up the trust and the understanding to make our merger a success.

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Is one organization taking over the other?

No, this is a merger of two organizations on equal terms.

Both organizations are approaching the merger from a position of strength, with a track record of positive impact for farmers, forests, communities, and the environment. Combining the strengths of both organizations now will allow us to increase our impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

All the board members from both sides will join the new board, alongside three representatives from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN); there will be two main offices, in Amsterdam and New York. The name of the organization will be the Rainforest Alliance, while the new CEO will be Han de Groot.

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What are your goals as a new organization?

We are driven by a common mission: to create a better world, one in which nature is protected and biodiversity can flourish; where farmers, workers and communities can take control of their own destinies; where companies source responsibly and drive innovation throughout their supply chains. This is a world where responsible land use and business practices are the norm, and it’s easy for consumers to make better choices about what they buy.

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What do the two sides bring to the merger?

We will combine the Rainforest Alliance’s public-facing brand, success in forest and landscape conservation, and working with local communities, with UTZ’s innovative way of bringing sustainable business practices to scale. Together we will have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to create even more of an impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

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How will farmers benefit?

Our new unified standard for sustainable agriculture, which will combine the strengths of both organizations, will give farmers a framework to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work. We will also have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to drive change at a sector level and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

The 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards will see savings by avoiding the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

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What will be the name of the new organization?

The organization will be called the Rainforest Alliance, carrying forward a strong public facing name.

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Who will be the CEO?

Han de Groot, will take on the role of CEO at the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer will take on the role of Chief Program Officer for Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods.

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Will you still be an NGO?

Yes.

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Will there be one standard? When?

Yes, we aim to publish one new standard by early 2019. This standard will build upon the best elements of the current SAN and UTZ standards for sustainable agriculture, with insight from a range of stakeholders. It will provide a framework for farmers to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work.

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Will the standard be lower or higher (weaker or stricter)?

We want to create a standard that is impactful and scalable, setting the bar for sustainable agricultural practices by taking the best elements of both the current SAN and UTZ standards. It must create positive impact for the farmers who work with it, providing a framework for them to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work.

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Will there also be one Chain of Custody?

Yes, to be published at the same time as the Standard – early 2019.

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Will there be a transition period to a new standard?

Yes. When the new standard is launched in 2019, there will be a transition period to implement the new standard. In the time before the new standard is launched, we will look into easing the transition where possible, for example extending the possibilities for joint audits.

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How will companies, aiming at more responsible supply chains, benefit?

We believe that working together as one stronger organization will allow us to deliver greater value to our stakeholders. As a truly global organization, we will have a broader reach with greater ability to provide you with better services and better solutions to your urgent challenges.

Our goal is to publish one new standard in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to provide you with the same services that are currently offered.

There is no need to change your existing packaging or materials, and you can continue using the UTZ logo/Rainforest Alliance seal as normal for the foreseeable future.

In the fall, we will contact you again with more information about the timeline for the coming period. Please rest assured that you will have plenty of time to make any transition in the future should it be necessary.

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I want to start sourcing sustainably. Should I choose for UTZ or RA now?

The two programs will continue to operate in parallel until a new standard is published in early 2019, so you can choose whichever works best for you right now. Please rest assured that you will have plenty of time to make any transition in the future. We will get back to you in the fall with more information about the timeline for the coming period.

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What does this mean for farmers?

Our merger will give us a greater reach and a stronger voice, creating even more impact for farmers, communities, and our planet.

We will create a unified standard for sustainable agriculture that combines the strengths of both organizations, simplifying the certification process for farmers. We will also have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to drive change at a sector level.

The 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards will see big savings. They will avoid the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

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What does this mean for certification bodies?

Our goal is to publish one new standard in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to operate in the same way as they do now. We will continue working with independent certification bodies.

This fall, we will contact you again with more information about the timeline for the coming period.

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