The Rainforest Alliance acknowledges a new report by Oxfam-DE entitled “Boundless Exploitation: Migrant Workers in German Supermarket Supply Chain” published on 2 March 2022. Among other issues, the report highlights the importance of protecting the rights of farm workers, including migrant workers, on Rainforest Alliance certified pineapple and banana farms in Costa Rica, which source to various retailers in Germany. The Rainforest Alliance welcomes this report and applauds Oxfam’s important efforts to further the protection of human rights in global supply chains. Inputs such as this help inform our continued efforts in improving environmental and social conditions on certified farms in the 70 countries where we work, including Costa Rica and other fruit growing regions in Latin America.
Upon receiving an excerpt of the report, the Rainforest Alliance immediately began analyzing the serious issues raised to determine next steps and follow-up actions across the 68 farms working under these certificates. As part of our ongoing efforts to improve our program and systems, we have also proactively required that a Rainforest Alliance expert on human rights violations join all audits of banana and pineapple farms in Costa Rica, and other geographies we have identified as medium to high risk.
Whenever the Rainforest Alliance receives a complaint or credible evidence that a violation of our standard has occurred, we investigate the matter immediately and if the allegations are confirmed, the farm could lose its certification. In the past three years our investigations and audit processes have led to several cancellations and certification suspensions on pineapple and banana farms in Costa Rica. It is important to clarify that the Rainforest Alliance program focuses on continuous improvement and remediation over prohibition. Simple prohibition has proven to be counterproductive and in fact, often drives human rights issues underground, making them harder to detect, thereby perpetuating the problem. However, farms that consistently act out of alignment with our vision for continuous improvement have no place in our certification program.
The importance of partnerships
Beyond our certification program, the Rainforest Alliance is advocating and driving collaborative actions in the fruit sector to address the root causes of human rights violations. One such example is our recently launched collaboration with labor rights NGO Stronger Together. This project will promote the responsible recruitment and protection of migrant and other vulnerable workers in specific countries in Latin America including Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Costa Rica and provide training to protect those workers from harmful pesticides in the fruit sector. For more information, please go here.
The Rainforest Alliance believes that collective action from all actors is needed to address the root causes of some of the more challenging aspects of sustainability, such as the gap between current and living wages. As part of our efforts to work towards closing the living wage gap in the fruit sector, the Rainforest Alliance is also a partner of the GIZ’s German Retailer’s Working Group on Living Income and Living Wages. For more information go here.
The Rainforest Alliance has long been addressing the ongoing challenges, both environmental and social, on fruit farms in Latin America. The existence of these challenges is a key reason we choose to work in these countries, to support producers who consistently comply with our standard as they move towards more sustainable production. To that end, we recognize the great strides made by Rainforest Certified farms that have consistently stayed on the sustainability journey with us for more than two decades.
The Rainforest Alliance has been driving meaningful change in sustainable agriculture across Latin America for three decades – providing substantial, positive impacts for farmers and farm workers while also protecting nature. Worker’s rights and well-being are an integral part of our standard. The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard has strict requirements on forced labor and other topics regarding working conditions, which are in accordance with convention No. 29 of the ILO Forced Labor Convention. These requirements cover a wide spectrum of topics, including but not limited to the prohibition of forced labor, child labor and discrimination, access to clean drinking water, sanitation and health care, and the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. In addition, compliance with local labor law is mandatory. To learn more about our certification program, go here.
Freedom of association
The Rainforest Alliance recognizes the importance of labor unions and other types of workers associations, and we continuously engage with these entities to help improve working conditions on certified fruit farms across Latin America. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining is a core requirement of our 2020 certification program. Our Freedom of Association policy also applies to migrant workers as such: The rights of workers and employers, without distinction whatsoever, to establish and join organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization. Any certified operation found to be in violation of the rules of our certification program as it pertains to migrant workers, stands to receive sanctions, and if found to be in noncompliance, the farm must take immediate corrective action.
Global Code of Conduct
The Rainforest Alliance adheres to a Global Code of Conduct, which includes a mandate for Safeguarding Vulnerable People. This mandate is designed to safeguard the welfare of rural communities. At all times, Rainforest Alliance staff, or anyone who represents our organization, must not in any way harm, abuse, or commit any act of violence against vulnerable people or place them at risk. We take this responsibility very seriously and will challenge and not tolerate inequality, discrimination, humiliation, or exclusion of the vulnerable people we work with across the globe.