THE RAINFOREST ALLIANCE AND UTZ TO MERGE, FORMING A NEW, STRONGER ORGANIZATION

The new organization will create a single agriculture sustainability standard, it will simplify the certification process and continue to improve livelihoods for farmers and forest communities.

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The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced on June 7, 2017 their intention to merge later this year.

The new organization, to be named the Rainforest Alliance, will tackle environmental and social issues around the world, including climate change, deforestation, poverty and unsustainable farming. It will create a single global certification standard that will simplify certification for farmers and empower companies to build more responsible supply chains, more efficiently. It will also work to expand advocacy efforts and through new partnerships ensure conservation of entire landscapes in priority regions from India to Indonesia, Guatemala to Ghana.

 

New organisation, new certification standard

The future Rainforest Alliance will help ensure that more products are responsibly sourced, helping farmers and companies meet the growing demand for products with sustainable credentials.

The future sustainability standard, a single certification program known as the Rainforest Alliance standard, will utilize the respective strengths of the current Sustainable Agriculture Network and UTZ standards while creating a single auditing process for certificate holders.

As a result, it will be an easier path for companies to achieve proven sustainability certification, allowing them to drive innovation throughout their supply chains. Streamlining the certification process will also help the 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers currently certified under both standards and new farmers alike to invest more efficiently in sustainability, avoiding a double administrative load of working with two standards and certification systems.

 

Stronger together

Adopting the name ‘Rainforest Alliance’ helps retain well-established engagement with consumers. By combining forces, the two NGOs will provide a leading platform to help increase demand for responsibly sourced products.

Together, the new organization will act as an advocate for change, continuing to protect the natural environment and striving to make sustainable agriculture and forest management the norm by working side by side with communities, businesses and governments. An aim that is already at the core of the missions of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.

Once the two organizations have merged, Han de Groot, current executive director of UTZ, will be the CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer, current president of the Rainforest Alliance, will take on the role of Chief Program Officer, Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods.

The future Rainforest Alliance will continue to be a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working in partnership with other organizations to promote sustainable agriculture.

Jump to Q&A

Testimonials

Han de Groot, Executive Director, UTZ

“The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever: climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food and forest products. The future Rainforest Alliance will have a bigger reach and stronger voice, allowing it to better protect the natural environment and allow farmers, businesses and consumers to make even more responsible choices, more easily. We have a history of continuous growth and strong partnerships – this new venture will give us more influence to bring us closer to our mission: a world where sustainable farming will be the norm.”

Nigel Sizer, President of the Rainforest Alliance

“Our missions are very similar, to work with farmers and communities in an effort to protect the natural environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change on a global scale. By uniting with UTZ, and partnered with SAN, we will combine our strengths to expand our impact on improving the lives of farmers and forest communities, protecting biodiversity and championing companies that are on the path to sustainability.”

Daniel Katz, Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Rainforest Alliance

“Now, more than ever, stronger collaborations are needed to ensure we are doing the best we can to create a more sustainable planet. This new alliance moves us forward in that regard as it combines first-rate global conservation efforts with the gold standards of independent third-party certification. We believe that collectively the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working closer together, will benefit more farmers and more ecosystems worldwide.”

Roberto Vélez, CEO Colombian Coffee Growers Federation

“Thousands of Colombian coffee farmers who are certified by both UTZ and The Rainforest Alliance will benefit from this development. It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs. This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability.” The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) represents more than half a million families dedicated to growing coffee in Colombia.

Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President, Markets and Food

“This shift offers an opportunity to help marginal producers in developing countries realize higher returns for their products through the harmonization and simplification of global certification programs. This should enable the adoption of better farming practices more quickly as well as continuous improvement in the production and sale of key commodities [such as coffee, cocoa, tea, and bananas]. I want to congratulate the leaders of both the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for coming together in order to find a common good.”

Andre de Freitas, Executive Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network

“The Sustainable Agriculture Network fully endorses the merger between the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ.  As a key partner of the Rainforest Alliance for more than two decades, we will participate in the governance of the new organization and look forward to supporting it over the coming years.”

Pascal Baltussen, Vice President, Commercial, at Mars Chocolate

“For years Mars has supported certification with both Rainforest Alliance and UTZ as part of our commitment to certify our entire cocoa supply chain as produced in a sustainable manner.  To achieve sustainability even greater impact and assurance is required, therefore we have high expectations that this merger will result in a positive transformation of farmer livelihoods and land use practices on a greater scale, which is urgently needed.”

For stakeholders

What does this mean for farmers?

Our new standard will set the bar for sustainable agriculture, giving farmers a framework to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work. We will also have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to drive change at a sector level.

The 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards will make big savings. They will avoid the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

More information & questions?

If you have any questions please get in touch with your country representative or send a message to communications@utz.org mentioning your country of origin in the subject line.

Please also find our Q&A below.

What does this mean for companies?

We believe that working together as one stronger organization will allow us to deliver greater value to our stakeholders.  As a truly global organization, we will now have a broader reach with greater ability to provide you with better services and better solutions to your urgent challenges.

Our goal is to publish one new standard in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to provide you with the same services that are currently offered.

More information & questions?

If you have any questions please get in touch with your account manager or our member support team via membersupport@utz.org.

Please also find our Q&A below.

What does this mean for all other stakeholders?

Both programs will continue to provide you with the same services that are currently offered.

If you have any questions please get in touch via communications@utz.org.

Q&A

What have you announced today?

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s largest sustainability certification schemes, have announced their intention to merge later this year.

Why are you merging?

We are at a critical point in the history of our planet. The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever. Climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food.

Our merger will give us a greater reach and a stronger voice, creating even more impact for farmers, communities, and our planet.

Together, we will create a unified standard for sustainable agriculture that combines the strengths of both organizations’ approaches, simplifying the certification process for farmers.

We will be a truly global organization, able to provide companies with better services and better solutions.

Our merger will enable us to innovate across our business activities, to invest in new technologies, and to advocate for the policy changes needed to create a world where people and the planet thrive together.

But why a full merger, rather than other forms of collaboration?

By fully merging we can focus on our mission to build a world where nature is protected and biodiversity can flourish; where farmers, workers and communities can take control of their own destinies; where companies source responsibly and drive innovation throughout their supply chains. We can do this better as one organization. This will make it far easier to make key decisions – for example, what key commodities and programs to focus on, in which landscapes, and in which regions of the world.

The sustainability landscape is constantly evolving and we need to evolve and innovate to remain focused on increased impact. Our coming together means we will be able to continue to offer “gold standard” 3rd party certification, as well as work more broadly and deeply across sectors and in landscapes, through the creation of innovative and effective partnerships.

Why now?

Both organizations are approaching the merger from a position of strength, with a track record of positive impact for farmers, forests, communities, and the environment.  Combining the strengths of both organizations now will allow us to increase our impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers than we could if we remained separate. Through the talks we’ve been having over the several months, we’ve built up the trust and the understanding to make our merger a success.

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 farmers, forests, communities, and the environment.  Combining the strengths of both organizations now will allow us to increase our impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

All the board members from both sides will join the new board, alongside three representatives from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN); there will be two main offices, in Amsterdam and New York. The name of the organization will be the Rainforest Alliance, while the new CEO will be Han de Groot.

What are your goals as a new organization?

We are driven by a common mission: to create a better world, one in which nature is protected and biodiversity can flourish; where farmers, workers and communities can take control of their own destinies; where companies source responsibly and drive innovation throughout their supply chains. This is a world where responsible land use and business practices are the norm, and it’s easy for consumers to make better choices about what they buy.

What do the two sides bring to the merger?

We will combine the Rainforest Alliance’s public-facing brand, success in forest and landscape conservation, and working with local communities, with UTZ’s innovative way of bringing sustainable business practices to scale. Together we will have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to create even more of an impact and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

How will farmers benefit?

Our new unified standard for sustainable agriculture, which will combine the strengths of both organizations, will give farmers a framework to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work. We will also have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to drive change at a sector level and deliver greater benefits to farmers, the environment, businesses, and consumers.

The 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards [will see savings by avoiding the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

What will be the name of the new organization?

The organization will be called the Rainforest Alliance, carrying forward a strong public facing name.

Who will be the CEO?

Han de Groot, will take on the role of CEO at the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer will take on the role of Chief Program Officer for Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods.

Will you still be an NGO?

Yes.

Will there be one standard? When?

Yes, we aim to publish one new standard by early 2019. This standard will build upon the best elements of the current SAN and UTZ standards for sustainable agriculture, with insight from a range of stakeholders. It will provide a framework for farmers to improve their livelihoods while protecting the landscapes where they live and work.

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

We want to create a standard that is impactful and scalable, setting the bar for sustainable agricultural practices by taking the best elements of both the current SAN and UTZ standards. 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.

Will there also be one Chain of Custody?

Yes, to be published at the same time as the Standard – early 2019.

Will there be a transition period to a new standard?

Yes. When the new standard is launched in 2019, there will be a transition period to implement the new standard. In the time before the new standard is launched, we will look into easing the transition where possible, for example extending the possibilities for joint audits.

How will companies, aiming at more responsible supply chains, benefit?

We believe that working together as one stronger organization will allow us to deliver greater value to our stakeholders. As a truly global organization, we will have a broader reach with greater ability to provide you with better services and better solutions to your urgent challenges.

Our goal is to publish one new standard in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to provide you with the same services that are currently offered.

There is no need to change your existing packaging or materials now, and you can continue using the UTZ logo/Rainforest Alliance seal as normal for the foreseeable future.

In the fall, we will contact you again with more information about the timeline for the coming period. Please rest assured that you will have plenty of time to make any transition in the future should it be necessary.

I want to start sourcing sustainably. Should I choose for UTZ or RA now?

The two programs will continue to operate in parallel until a new standard is published in early 2019, so you can choose whichever works best for you right now. Please rest assured that you will have plenty of time to make any transition in the future. We will get back to you in the fall with more information about the timeline for the coming period.

What does this mean for farmers?

Our merger will give us a greater reach and a stronger voice, creating even more impact for farmers, communities, and our planet.

We will create a unified standard for sustainable agriculture that combines the strengths of both organizations, simplifying the certification process for farmers. We will also have a greater reach and a stronger voice, enabling us to drive change at a sector level.

The 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards will see big savings. They will avoid the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

What does this mean for certification bodies?

Our goal is to publish one new standard in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to operate in the same way as they do now. We will continue working with independent certification bodies.

This fall, we will contact you again with more information about the timeline for the coming period.

 

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