We are now almost a year out from the official start date of the UTZ-Rainforest Alliance merger. In that time, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to develop a new combined standard for agricultural certification, which we expect to launch in late 2019. We’re also focused on creating a seamless transition process for our companies and producers, and we are happy to announce that the first step of that process is now ready: a mutual recognition of the Chain of Custody certification process.

Alex Morgan Chief Markets Officer Rainforest Alliance

Alex Morgan, Chief Markets Officer

As of December 3rd, the implementation of this mutual certification recognition for existing Chain of Custody certificate holders of either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance standards will begin. This interim solution will simplify things for companies until the new certification program is launched.

Saving time and money

“The UTZ-Rainforest Alliance merger is designed to create a positive impact for all of our stakeholders, including producers and companies,” explains Alex Morgan, Chief Markets Officer at the Rainforest Alliance. “This mutual recognition process for Chain of Custody certification is a significant first step.”

Essentially it means that as of December 3rd, you can start purchasing both UTZ certified and Rainforest certified ingredients while only having one Chain of Custody certificate in place for either one of the current programs.

This change is being rolled out with the goal of reducing administrative costs as well as streamlining the audit process to lessen the burden of being Chain of Custody dual certified.

“This change is being rolled out with the goal of reducing administrative costs as well as streamlining the audit process to lessen the burden of being Chain of Custody dual certified,” Alex Morgan says.

Although companies will still need to comply with the rules of both certifications, including seal use, they will only have to be audited and licensed once for both certifications, saving time and money. This is a benefit for companies already working with both certifications, as well as for those currently working with one that wish to start working with the other, too.

Just one Chain of Custody certificate

So how does this work practically?

Supply chain actor showing approved packaging to UTZ auditorCompanies working with the Rainforest Alliance can request an UTZ audit exemption, while companies with an UTZ certification can apply for the Rainforest Alliance Endorsement. If you have no desire to start sourcing ingredients from the other certification and want to continue business as usual with just one of the organizations, then essentially nothing will change for you. For companies that are dual certified, depending on where you are in the certification cycle, you can let one of the certificates expire and continue with the other, while seeking out the appropriate endorsement or exemption.

Logs from Sri Lankan tea estateIt is important to emphasize that the mutual recognition solely relates to the Chain of Custody certification process, and not the marketing or labeling. UTZ certified ingredients can only be sold or labeled as UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certified ingredients can only be sold or labeled as Rainforest Alliance.

The steps you’ll need to take to start benefiting from this change will differ from company to company. To find out what it means for your company, check our guidelines document.

Creating a bigger impact together

“The mutual recognition of the Chain of Custody certification is part of a larger effort to look at how we can facilitate our partners’ transition towards one certification system before we launch a single certification program late next year,” Alex Morgan says.

The UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs will continue to run in parallel until the publication of a single new certification program at the end of 2019. Alex Morgan: “This new program will ultimately result in a stronger standard focused on greater social, environmental and economic impact. In addition to a new standard for farmers, we will also be creating a new Chain of Custody standard, a new fee structure, and a new labeling policy for companies sourcing certified products to bring continued benefit.”

Stay tuned for future updates about this transition. We will continue to share further certification-related developments within the new Rainforest Alliance as they become available.

In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any and all questions. For more info on how to take advantage of this opportunity, see here for detailed steps.