The Rainforest Alliance acknowledges the March 2021 Greenpeace report Destruction: Certified which reports on the limitations of certification standards in addressing deforestation. We welcome this report as part of ongoing efforts to protect forests and help fight climate change.
We agree that voluntary sustainability standards alone are not enough to make fully responsible supply chains a reality. The Rainforest Alliance has been both publicly and consistently outspoken on this issue. We recognize that for sustainability standards to be most impactful, there also needs to be effective and well-implemented regulations to promote more sustainable commodity production and sourcing.
We proudly work alongside Greenpeace on various forests-related issues. We have recently collaborated on the #Together4Forests campaign, along with more than 100 NGOs, calling on the European Union to take legal action against global forest loss and to ensure that consumer products linked to deforestation do not enter the EU market. In recent years, we have also worked with Greenpeace International in developing the Accountability Framework Initiative.
The Greenpeace report covers (in the section ‘Rainforest Alliance’) both the UTZ and 2017 Rainforest Alliance standards as well as the new 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agricultural Standard. This has led to some confused analysis in that section. We asked Greenpeace to correct the inaccuracies in that section.
The 2020 Certification Program and Shared Responsibility
Our work to help mitigate climate change is focused on natural climate solutions—which includes forest conservation, restoration, and improved land management practices—to increase carbon storage, avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to changing weather patterns. Learn more about our work in natural climate solutions.
Since the merger between UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance in 2018, our organization has developed a suite of tools and a stronger alliance of key actors to amplify our impact. A key part of this effort has been our work in developing our new and enhanced 2020 Certification Program, which is underpinned by the principles of robust and transparent data and a commitment to continuous improvement—including the use of advanced monitoring techniques, particularly in the area of identifying and combatting deforestation and encroachment into protected forests. Our new 2020 Certification Program is designed to identify areas of high risk and incentivize progress along the entire sustainability journey.
The 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard does not allow destruction or conversion of natural ecosystems. Certificate holders (producers) are requested to submit the geolocation data of their farms. This data is mapped against a country-specific customized forest layer and a tree-cover loss layer. The result is a map showing different levels of deforestation risk. This not only helps auditors to more effectively detect deforestation, but also helps certified farmers to better identify and address deforestation risks in the first place.
The Rainforest Alliance’s 2020 Certification Program provides farms and businesses with a set of tools to assess their own sustainability risks and actively plan management actions and necessary investment to address them. The 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard includes mandatory improvement levels for a number of sustainable practices. It also allows certified producers and businesses—who want to go beyond the core standard requirements—to set their own targets based on the risks they identify and measure their performance in addressing them. We see this as an important way to incentivize and reward farmers and businesses who want to take their sustainability performance to the next level.
The 2020 Certification Program also reinforces our “Shared Responsibility” approach. Shared Responsibility is a recognition that in order to make sectors truly sustainable, all supply chain actors have a role to play—and that includes sharing both the value and the risks of committing to sustainability transformation on the ground. This requires a shift to a system where buyers make clear contributions to the producers’ costs, investments are covered, and producers’ efforts to make their farms and production more sustainable are rewarded. To help realize this vision, our 2020 Sustainable Agriculture Standard outlines two requirements for the buyers of Rainforest Alliance Certified commodities: The Sustainability Differential and Sustainability Investments.
Protecting the world’s forests is at the very heart of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission and has been for more than 30 years. One of our primary approaches to conserving tropical forests around the world is through sustainable agriculture. Around the globe, conventional agriculture is responsible for 80 percent of tropical deforestation, which is why the convergence of forest conservation and land-use management systems like agroforestry is of utmost importance. If we are to keep our forests standing, we need to help farmers break the vicious cycle of forest degradation by promoting more sustainable farming practices. Today, more than two million farmers follow our agricultural standards in more than 70 countries around the world.
The Rainforest Alliance has been actively working for decades in several of the world’s most critically important landscapes, including the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Guatemala, where our partner communities have maintained near net-zero deforestation for almost 20 years. We work with local partners to support forest communities in maintaining forestry concessions awarded through the Guatemalan government. The Rainforest Alliance has been working with these communities since 1999, first through certification, and then in developing sustainable forest enterprises, which include harvesting and selling non-timber forest products. Learn more about our work in the MBR. In addition, the Rainforest Alliance continues to foster best practices in sustainable forestry through other interventions, including the Accountability Framework Initiative, Forest Allies, and Landscale.
And finally, through our advocacy work, we are actively working to influence policy and advance our key sustainability priorities. We believe binding due diligence regulations, spanning human rights and environmental protections, is a vital step in achieving responsible supply chains. We actively participate in the European Commission’s consultations on preventing deforestation. The recent position paper we signed with other members of the Tropical Forest Alliance outlines our call for a “smart mix” of measures in EU action on deforestation.
We are also working with several corporate partners to develop tailored supply chain strategies that guide companies on their own sustainability journeys. The Rainforest Alliance believes that partnerships and collaboration are key to addressing the major sustainability challenges we face around the world today. Our work is a joint effort along with all actors in the global supply chain, including governments, companies, NGOs, and consumers around the globe. We take our role in that context very seriously and remain committed to doing our part to help to stop deforestation and the devastating impacts of climate change.