Joining forces: UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance

In January 2018, UTZ merged with the Rainforest Alliance. We are joining forces because we know that together we can have a greater impact and be a better partner to the many stakeholders we work with. Work is now underway to build our new organization and certification program.

Building a new certification program

The UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs will continue to run in parallel until the publication of a single new program at the end of 2019.

Our goal is to develop a standard that has a greater social, environmental and economic impact, giving farmers and producers an enhanced framework to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work. It will integrate new technologies with proven, effective systems. It will also emphasize outcomes and adaptability to local contexts.

In addition to a new standard, it will include a new chain of custody, a new fee structure, and a new labeling policy for companies sourcing certified products.

Want to stay updated on the development of the new certification program? Sign up here.

Our organization is called the Rainforest Alliance, and alongside this we will continue to use and invest in the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ “green frog” seal, which brings strong consumer recognition and brand value.

We have consulted with companies on our full value offering, including the future of the UTZ label, and this will feed into the development of our new program. Whatever the outcome, companies can continue to submit UTZ labeling approval requests for at least three years after the publication of the new certification program in 2019.

It is not permitted to use UTZ and Rainforest Alliance interchangeably. 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.

Better Impact, Better Services

What does this mean for companies

In the future, this merger will reduce the complexity of the certification process for companies that are now working with both programs, and at the same time it will increase efficiency and flexibility so that we can continuously improve services to meet business needs.

We have completed a broad qualitative and quantitative consultation to develop our full value offering to companies, including the future of the UTZ label, the fee structure, labeling policy, and marketing approaches. We have also consulted customers on how to manage the transition to the new certification program. The input received is very valuable and is now helping us further shape our business strategy, which we will share in due course.

What does this mean for farmers

Farmers should continue following the UTZ standard as usual. Continue to arrange audits and register sales of certified ingredients following the same processes already in place.

We will publish a new certification program at the end of 2019, and we will guide farmers through a step by step transition. Creating one certification program will bring big benefits to the 182,000 farmers who are currently both UTZ and RA certified – they will only need one audit instead of two, and avoid the double administration of applying two standards.

What does this mean for certification bodies

Approved Certification Bodies can continue carrying out audits against the UTZ standard as usual. When we publish our new certification program in 2019 we will continue to work with independent certification bodies.

RA-Cert and NEPCon

On October 1, 2018, the Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon have formally completed NEPCon’s acquisition of the RA-Cert business unit, which previously managed Rainforest Alliance’s certification, assurance, and auditing services. NEPCon is an international non-profit organization that promotes and delivers sustainability certification services and has been working collaboratively on certification and other initiatives with the Rainforest Alliance since 1998. Find the Q&A in different languages here.

NEW LEADERSHIP AND BOARD

The leadership team is now in place, made up of several leaders of the pre-merger UTZ and Rainforest Alliance as well as newly appointed colleagues. All members of the pre-merger UTZ and Rainforest Alliance boards have joined a new Board of Directors. Find out more

Q&A

Why have you merged?

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ have merged in response to the critical challenges facing humanity: deforestation, climate change, systemic poverty, and social inequity. We are combining our respective strengths because we know that together, we will be in a better position to achieve the scale of impact necessary to meet these challenges effectively.

Our mission is to build a future in which nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes, where farmers, workers, and communities prosper, and where sustainable land use and responsible business practices are the norm. We envision a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.

Is one organization taking over the other?

No, this is a merger of two organizations on equal terms.

Both organizations are approaching the merger from a position of strength, with a track record of positive impact for farming and forest communities, companies, consumers, and our planet – 30 years of impact for the Rainforest

Alliance and 15 for UTZ at the time of the merger. While both organizations could have continued working side by side, we are taking this step because we know we will be even better together.All the board members from both organizations have joined the new board, and there are two main offices, in Amsterdam and New York. The name of the organization is the Rainforest Alliance, and the CEO is Han de Groot from UTZ.

What is the name of the new organization?

The organization is called the Rainforest Alliance, carrying forward the strong public-facing name.

Will you create a new certification program?

Yes. In 2019 we will publish our new certification program, bringing together and building upon the best of the current UTZ and Rainforest Alliance systems. It will include a new standard for producers and a new chain of custody. There will also be a new fee structure and labeling policy for companies sourcing certified ingredients.

How will the new certification program be developed?

We want to bring together and build upon the best of both current programs. 2018 will be dedicated to building our new organization and completing a far-reaching consultation process with all our stakeholder groups.

Timeline

June 2018 – Our new approach – We will set out our high level goals for the new certification program in a Terms of Reference document.

November-December 2018 – Have your say – A first draft of the standard will be published, and we will run a full public consultation. This will include workshops, and an open online survey.

January-March 2019 – Review and improve – Based on the input from the public consultation we will review and improve the first draft of the standard.

June-July 2019 – Have your say – If necessary, a second consultation round will give the opportunity for further stakeholder input on some aspects.

End 2019 – Final approval and publication – The standard will be approved by the Rainforest Alliance Standards Committee and the program will be published: a new standard for farmers, chain of custody, labeling policy and fee structure.

2020 – Transition begins – We will guide all stakeholders through a gradual, step-by-step transition process

What is the future of the UTZ label and the Rainforest Alliance seal?

Our organization is called the Rainforest Alliance, and alongside this, we will continue to use and invest in the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ “green frog” seal, which brings strong consumer recognition and brand value.

We have consulted with companies on our full value offering, including the future of the UTZ label, and this will feed into the development of our new program. Whatever the outcome, companies can continue to submit UTZ labeling approval requests for at least three years after the publication of the new certification program in 2019.

It is not permitted to use the current labels or seals interchangeably. 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.

Will the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs/labels be interchangeable from now on?

No. The UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certification programs will run separately and in parallel until the publication of the new program in 2019. This means that UTZ certified ingredients can only be sold, sourced and labeled as UTZ certified, and Rainforest Alliance certified ingredients can only be sold, sourced and labeled as RA certified.         

Do certified farmers or companies need to make any changes now?

No, you can continue following the UTZ program as usual. The UTZ and Rainforest Alliance programs will run in parallel until the publication of a new certification program in 2019, after which there will be a gradual transition that gives you enough time to make any changes.

What does it mean for farmers?

Farmers should continue following the UTZ standard as usual. Continue to arrange audits and register sales of certified ingredients following the same processes already in place.

We will publish a new certification program in 2019, bringing together and building upon the best of the current UTZ and Rainforest Alliance systems. We will guide you through a step by step transition and ensure you have enough time to make any necessary changes. You can find more information on what it means for farmers here (LINK).

Will the new standard be lower or higher (weaker or stricter) for farmers?

Our goal is to develop a standard that is impactful and scalable, bringing together the best elements of both standards. This does not necessarily mean stricter or more difficult. It must create positive impact for the farmers who work with it, providing a framework for them to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work. It must be scalable, so that we can extend the benefits of certification even further.

What does it mean for companies?

Companies can continue sourcing and labeling UTZ certified products at least until the publication of the new certification program in 2019.

In the future, this merger will reduce the complexity of the certification process for companies that are now working with both programs, and at the same time it will increase efficiency and flexibility so that we can continuously improve services to meet business needs.

Our new certification program will bring together the best of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance, and we will guide companies through a step-by-step transition.

I want to start sourcing certified ingredients. Should I choose UTZ or RA now?

You should choose whichever program is best for your business for the coming two years.

We will publish a new certification program in 2019 that brings together the best of both systems and provide step-by-step support to any companies making a transition at that time, but we do not yet know the details. The new system will include changes to both current systems. We will make sure you have enough time to make any changes.

What does it mean for certification bodies?

Approved Certification Bodies can continue carrying out audits against the UTZ standard as usual. In 2019 we will publish a new certification program. We will continue to work with independent certification bodies.

How can I give my input?

You can always share your comments or questions via the following contact details:

Companies: contact your account manager or membersupport@utz.org

Farmers: contact your country representative or communications@utz.org

Certification Bodies: contact cbmanagement@utz.org

All other stakeholders: contact communications@utz.org

Read more on the Better Business Hub

An Auspicious Beginning

Han de Groot, CEO of the new Rainforest Alliance and the former executive director of UTZ, discusses the shared vision that brought the two organizations together.

Learn more >>

A Sustainability Homecoming

Reflections on the UTZ – Rainforest Alliance merger from someone who has worked for both organizations.

Learn more >>

 

Reactions from the market

Our merger with the Rainforest Alliance is a major milestone in UTZ’s history. We see it as a chance to be more innovative together, and in partnership with our stakeholders. But what do our stakeholders think?

Learn more >>

 

“Sustainable transformation…

must be driven by industry leadership and consumer demand.” Daniel Katz, the founder and chairman of the board of the Rainforest Alliance, explains how the organization’s planned merger with UTZ will be a major step forward for sustainability.

Learn more >>

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