The Rainforest Alliance supports independent research that tests specific hypotheses about the impact of our programs at the level of the household, farm, forest unit, watershed, and across landscapes.
This support can take many different forms. We keep an up-to-date list of priority research topics (see below), which researchers or their graduate students can reference as they develop their studies. Sometimes we establish partnerships with universities or other research institutions; in these cases, we might provide substantive review, give logistical support, and/or help researchers acquire certain types of background data—for example, geospatial data. In yet other cases, a large multi-year training or certification project might have funds earmarked for impacts research, in which case the Rainforest Alliance will write a Terms of Reference for the research and then commission a study from start to finish.
Under each of these scenarios, the independence of the researcher is paramount. The Rainforest Alliance might provide assistance with hypothesis development, logistical support, or interpretation of results, but we do not assist with data collection or analysis. Ultimately our priority is to support research that teaches us about the impacts and effectiveness of our programs—whatever the results might be.
We suggest that researchers who are interested in collaborating with the Rainforest Alliance familiarize themselves with the Rainforest Alliance Theory of Change on page 16 of the 2015 SAN/Rainforest Alliance Impacts Report, as this describes our organization’s intended outcomes and impacts, and describes the mechanisms through which we aim to achieve them. We also recommend reading ISEAL’s Guidance Note for Researchers, which describes some of the key definitions, considerations, and challenges for research on sustainability standards systems.
Priority Research Topics
Below is a list of the Rainforest Alliance’s priority research topics for the agriculture sector, as of January 2017, grouped by outcome area. You may also download a PDF of the research topic list for printing.