The Rainforest Alliance has been driving meaningful change on banana farms for three decades, providing substantial positive impacts for farmers, farm workers and nature. After an exhaustive consultative process, we believe the new 2020 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard is poised to deliver even more value and impact for producers, companies and consumers.
In a concluding convening meeting with banana sector organizations and retailers on 18 December 2020, the Rainforest Alliance confirmed the sustainability ambitions behind its new standard. The Rainforest Alliance invited farmers and companies to pilot and implement the new program together. Key improvements – grounded in practical solutions – include greater financial transparency – including a pathway to living income and wage, an improved adaptive management approach to agrochemicals and risk assessment tools for producers. The launch of the new standard follows the merger of the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ and utilizes the strengths of both certification programs to create a refined auditing process for certificate holders.
The development of the new certification program included a two-year multi-stakeholder process, numerous public consultation workshops, input from more than 1,000 stakeholders in nearly 50 countries, representing more than 200 organizations and an additional 6-month technical consultation with banana stakeholders to ensure smooth uptake of the new approach. Input was solicited from producers, farm workers, trade associations, trade unions, local NGOs, retailers, traders and other relevant stakeholders.
However, following the publication of the 2020 Standard, the Rainforest Alliance received a letter from banana sector organizations in Latin America expressing concerns with respect to certain elements of the new program, based on the unique challenges specific to perishable crops and the contract cycles of banana farms. In response to this concern, the Rainforest Alliance conducted an immediate roundtable discussion on 23 July 2020 with more than 40 participants including Rainforest Alliance leadership and technical experts.
The goal of these technical discussions was to have a robust and constructive discussion on key elements of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard to provide the most efficient and impactful implementation pathway for banana growers in Latin America. Our intent is to ensure that, together, we are maximizing the positive social, environmental and economic impact for banana growers.
As a result of these meetings, we have now clarified and improved several ambiguities around the standard and have fine-tuned numerous requirements, definitions and Annexes, which will be included in the upcoming version 1.1 of the 2020 standard. In addition, we have taken feedback from these discussions and developed relevant guidance and policies for banana producers and supply chain actors to support implementation, such as the Policy on the transition period to the 2020 certification system for banana certificate holders. These include but are not limited to the revision of the drone requirements and the guide on Shared Responsibility.
In addition to the improvements in the standard and policies, the Rainforest Alliance also granted an extension to the timeline for banana producers to implement the new standard. Banana producers were granted 18 months from July 1, 2021 to actually implement the new standard, based on the very clear request from the banana sector organizations to allow for the entirety of 2022 to implement the new standard. Rainforest Alliance certified banana farms now have the option to be audited against the existing 2017 Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard OR the new 2020 Standard during the latter half of 2021. With this exception in place, all banana farms must be audited against the 2020 Standard by January 2022. To support this effort, the Rainforest Alliance will begin a comprehensive training program for producers and certificate holders to support the successful implementation starting in January 2021.
The Rainforest Alliance recognizes that in order to make sectors truly sustainable, all supply chain actors have an important role to play, sharing not only in the value but also the risks.
The new Sustainable Differential (SD) and the Sustainability Investments (SI) approaches provide the necessary shift to move away from a model that places the burden of investing in sustainable production exclusively on producers and moves toward a new system where responsibility for sustainable production is shared across the entire supply chain. Additionally, retailers and other companies making Living Wage commitments may implement a living income and a living wage in a stepwise approach through the new standard, assurance and traceability systems in close collaboration with their suppliers.
Throughout the entirety of the process of improvement of the new certification program for the banana sector, the Rainforest Alliance has worked diligently to address serious concerns, provide improvements and adjust the specifics of the approach to ensure the new standard’s practicability. We have responded to each inquiry from key stakeholders in writing, documented all improvements and are now prepared to launch the revised standard in version 1.1.
Unfortunately, some efforts to undermine third-party certification and broader sustainability initiatives have been disguised positioned as initiatives to improve our standard and approach. The Rainforest Alliance remains a principled organization, focused on improvements for farmers, farming communities and nature. As such, we will continue to strive for improvement above and beyond local legal structures and we will continue to push for sustainability improvements. At no point will we deem it acceptable to allow aerial agrochemical spraying of people on certified farms, regardless of whether they are on large or smallholder farms. And above all, we will continue to engage stakeholders in robust consultation and discussion to ensure that our programs and certification achieve meaningful impact on the ground.