It’s hard to go into a supermarket without spotting the Rainforest Alliance frog seal—it appears on everything from coffee to bananas to cocoa, after all. But what, exactly, does that seal symbolize? The short answer is: a lot. The long answer is: an entire holistic sustainability approach that aims to both conserve biodiversity and improve rural livelihoods. Add to this a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system that tracks the degree to which the organization is—or isn’t—reaching those goals, and you can see that our little frog carries quite a load.
In a newly released 2018 Rainforest Alliance Impacts Report, we share the latest information behind the seal with this comprehensive assessment, based on independent research results, the program’s certificate database, audit findings for certified farms and groups, and interviews with farmers and leading sustainability researchers, of the Rainforest Alliance certification program.
The theme of this Impacts Report, “Partnership, Learning, and Change,” highlights the Rainforest Alliance’s collaborative approach to tackling the most critical social and environmental challenges in agriculture. It also discusses our most significant recent partnership: the merger with the UTZ certification program and creation of the new Rainforest Alliance.
Key findings of the report include:
- Rainforest Alliance Certified farm area continues to grow, with steady increases in certified tea and banana production area. Certified coffee and cocoa also expanded modestly, recovering from earlier dips in 2014 (coffee) and 2015 (cocoa). Except for cocoa, certified production volumes for all major crops in the program reached new highs in 2017.
- The body of independent scientific research on the impacts of the Rainforest Alliance certification program continues to provide evidence that our approach is working. The 2018 Impacts Report summarizes the results of eight new studies published since the 2015 Impacts Report. These results build on an already-substantial body of scientific research to show that, compared to non-certified farms, Rainforest Alliance certification is associated with benefits such as higher farm productivity, lower rates of farmer poverty, healthier and more intact natural ecosystems on and around farms, and more extensive use of alternative pest control measures. Among the very few negative results, one study showed lower insect diversity on Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms.
- The Rainforest Alliance has embarked upon or deepened key partnerships during past two years to tackle specific challenges, such as low worker wages and pesticide safety issues. These partnerships have helped drive collective action on these important topics while also informing the new 2017 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, which incorporates the living wage approach and key innovations such as new risk-based approach to pesticide use.
- Analysis of farm and group compliance with the certification standard shows generally good performance related to the three key topics we examined: improving farmer and farm worker livelihoods, conserving natural ecosystems, and minimizing pesticide use and risk. By analyzing results from different crops and regions separately, we were also able to identify crop-region groupings where challenges remain—most notably for a handful of criteria addressing soil fertilization, agrochemical storage and safety, and vegetated buffer zones. Insights from these data can help inform the Rainforest Alliance’s training, standards development, and other program activities to address critical implementation gaps in a targeted way.
The positive results described above are the direct result of years—and sometimes decades—of collaborative effort, but there is much more to be done. The new 2017 Rainforest Alliance Standard brings a more rigorous, science-based, and farmer-centric approach to addressing key topics, including ecosystem conservation and restoration, living wage and living income, pesticides, and worker well-being. New and existing partnerships support efforts to address complex sustainability issues by working collaboratively with industry, government, producer associations, and other certification programs. And new upgrades to the certification program’s monitoring and evaluation system will bring new data and insight to better document on-the-ground impacts, and support sound decision-making and continuous improvement by certified producers and the program itself.
Our merger with renowned certification giant UTZ earlier this year positions the new Rainforest Alliance to strengthen the impacts of our certification program even further. That’s good news for our little green frog—and for all the seal represents.
We invite you to learn more by downloading the full report.