Joining Forces: UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance

Updated on December 4, 2017.

In June 2017, we announced our intention to merge 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.

We expect to complete the legal merger and begin working to build our new organization in January 2018.

For stakeholders

What does this 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 and build upon the best of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance, and we will guide companies through a step-by-step transition.

Find out more

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 in 2019, and we will guide farmers through a step by step transition.

Our goal is to develop a certification program 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.

 

Find out more

What does it 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.

Find out more

Q&A

Why are you merging?

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are merging 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 will join the new board, and there will be two main offices, in Amsterdam and New York. The name of the organization will be the Rainforest Alliance, and the CEO will be Han de Groot from UTZ.

What will be the name of the new organization?

The organization will be 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. We will launch a broad consultation to develop a new standard, and we will also consult on our brand identity and value offering to companies (including the future of the UTZ label, the fee structure, labeling policy, and marketing approaches).

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

We do know that we will continue using and investing in the Rainforest Alliance logo and seal, both of which have strong brand recognition among consumers in many key markets. Starting in early 2018 we will carry out a broad consultation with our stakeholders to develop our full value offering to companies, including the future of the UTZ label, the fee structure, labeling policy, and marketing approaches. We will also consult on how best to manage the transition to the new certification program.

Whatever the outcome of the consultation, 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 labels 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. CBs can give their input to the new standard and certification system during our stakeholder consultation process in 2018.

How can I give my input?

In early 2018 we will begin a broad consultation to develop the new certification program. Our stakeholders will hear from us again in January, and there will also be information available on this page. In the meantime, 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

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.”

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