Interest in third-party, sustainable certification is on the rise, demonstrated by an uptick in businesses responding to consumer demand for sustainability and transparency, despite continued instability in the global economic environment. This trend accounts for the significant growth experienced by the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit conservation organization, in its sustainable forestry, agriculture, tourism, climate and education programs during 2010.
“We are proud that the portfolio of our work has expanded into more than 70 countries,” said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “The combined efforts of each farm and forest that has earned Rainforest Alliance certification represent a huge global impact, conserving the environment and promoting healthy ecosystems while benefitting the lives of millions of farm and forest workers, and their communities.”
In forestry, the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program maintained its position as the leading certifier to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards — certifying 9.2 million acres (3.7 million hectares) of forestland to FSC standards and increasing its overall forest management area by 6 percent to 156 million acres (63.1 million hectares) worldwide. FSC-certified forests conserve soil and water, reduce waste, curb deforestation and provide habitat for wildlife. Workers on certified forestlands benefit from safe working conditions, health care and decent housing and their children have access to education. To date, the Rainforest Alliance has certified 47 percent of FSC-certified land worldwide. The Rainforest Alliance also issued 2,987 FSC Chain-of-Custody certificates in 2010, a 7 percent increase over the previous year. In the same period, Clearwater Paper committed to crafting its premium and ultra bath, napkin and paper towel products with FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified™ fiber.
The carbon services arm of the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program — which audits forestry projects that have demonstrated an ability to sequester carbon dioxide and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — achieved a number of firsts in 2010. In Canada, SmartWood validated the first Climate, Community, and Biodiversity project, recognizing the project’s benefits to climate, ecosystems and sustainable development. In Paraguay, SmartWood validated the country’s first Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project. In Guatemala, SmartWood and the FSC validated the first project to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), a robust, global standard for approval of verified carbon offsets, and approved the first and third REDD methodologies for the VCS.
The Rainforest Alliance also released updated standards to ensure the legality of timber production and trade: Verification of Legal Origin and Verification of Legal Compliance.
In 2010, the Rainforest Alliance’s Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES) program assisted over 100 small- and medium-sized community and indigenous forestry operations, and expanded into Ghana and Cameroon, and eight new states in Mexico. In Honduras’s Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve, forestry cooperatives assisted by the Rainforest Alliance achieved forest management certification for the first time on 37,000 acres (14,900 hectares) of land, with plans to expand to an additional 488,000 acres (197,500 hectares) in the near future. Through the GuateCarbon pilot project in Guatemala — covering an area almost 988,500 acres (400,000 hectares) in the Maya Biosphere Reserve — TREES continued to demonstrate how payment for environmental services from REDD+ in well-managed, certified forests can benefit local communities and encourage sustainable land use.
The Rainforest Alliance’s SmartSource program continued its responsible sourcing work through new collaborations with retailers and brands — ASDA, Oriflame and General Mills — while continuing its work with Marks & Spencer, Gibson, Staples, Unilever and PepsiCo. The combined value of SmartSource client products (represented primarily by paper and packaging companies) is now over US $20 billion dollars or 22 million tons of pulp/paper, representing a potential to bring 396 million trees or 100 million acres (40.4 million hectares) of forestland under sustainable management.
In agriculture, over 1.75 million acres (708,200 hectares) of farmland have earned Rainforest Alliance certification, awarded to farms that have met rigorous environmental, social and economic standards for sustainability.
In 2010, more than 219,000 metric tons of coffee were produced on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, an increase of 30 percent over 2009. Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee now represents an estimated 2.5 percent of the global coffee market, and the volume of certified coffee sold in 2010 increased 31 percent over the previous year, reaching 114,884 metric tons.
The growth in Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee sales and production has been fueled by a number of new commitments to sustainability. In 2010, Caribou Coffee, the second largest specialty retailer in the country, committed to achieving 100 percent Rainforest Alliance certification for all its coffee by the end of 2011. The same year, with the launch of the Nescafe Plan, Nestle committed to sourcing 90,000 tons of coffee from farms that comply with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards — the standards that all Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must meet — by 2020. American Airlines also began serving 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee on all of its flights. In Canada, Second Cup, a leading national roaster and retailer, began to offer a number of certified coffees, while in the UK, leading coffee-shop chain Costa Coffee committed to 100 percent certification for their signature Mocha Italia blend, and in Switzerland, Kraft’s Medaille d’Or achieved 100 percent certification. In Japan, Ueshima Coffee Co.’s mainstream coffees began carrying the green frog seal and over 18,000 vending machines now serve certified coffee at train stations and expressways.
Rainforest Alliance Certified tea is now grown in 11 countries. More than 120,000 metric tons of certified tea was produced in 2010, a 53 percent increase from 2009, representing approximately 3.2 percent of all global production. Significant achievements during 2010 included the training of 200,000 smallholders in Kenya, Rwanda and Malawi in the SAN standards and a commitment by Tetley, the world’s second largest tea company, to source all of the leaves for its Tetley brand from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms by 2016.
Nearly 56,000 metric tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa were produced in 2010, a 319 percent increase over the previous year. In the US, specialty chocolate companies Endangered Species, Bissinger’s, Salazon, High Altitude and Full Circle Exchange all began carrying the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal on products. In the UK, Mars launched its Galaxy chocolate brand with the green frog seal and Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the UK, launched private label chocolate bars made with 100 percent certified cocoa and carrying the green frog seal. In Australia, Gloria Jean’s Coffee launched their hot drinking chocolate, also made with 100 percent certified cocoa.
Other agriculture achievements include: the first-ever sugarcane certifications in Brazil and El Salvador; the launch of a new SAN standard for sustainable cattle ranches; the launch of certified pineapples from Costa Rica at Whole Foods Markets in the US, and the first Rainforest Alliance Certified flowers grown by smallholders in Kenya sold at Asda stores in the UK. Finally, 768 new companies registered to buy and sell goods grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified farms during 2010, a 24 percent growth from 2009, bringing the total number to 2,416.
For its work in tourism, the Rainforest Alliance received the 2010 TIES Innovation Leadership Award, recognition of the organization’s innovative work to promote sustainable tourism and bring tangible benefits to communities and conservation. The Rainforest Alliance provides training and technical assistance to tourism businesses and verifies their compliance with standards for environmental, social and economic sustainability. During 2010, the Rainforest Alliance, along with the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization, led the launch of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council — an initiative to promote sustainable tourism around the world. The Rainforest Alliance also launched a sustainable tourism website, SustainableTrip.org, which provides eco-savvy consumers with a search tool to find sustainable tourism businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently 590 tourism businesses are working with the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism program, up 34 percent (from 440 businesses) from 2009.
During 2010 the Rainforest Alliance advanced its efforts to address the impacts of climate change and further climate change mitigation, earning a reputation as a leader in forest carbon validation and verification. To this end, it verified or validated nine new carbon projects, covering almost 1.27 million acres (514,700 hectares) of land, bringing its total number of forest carbon project verifications and validations to 18, representing 3.17 million acres (1.28 million hectares) in 16 countries. The organization also concluded six assessments of forest-carbon-accounting methodologies.
The Rainforest Alliance conducted activity-based training for nearly 400 students, teachers and local community members in the Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2010, highlighting the role their forestlands play in climate change, and the potential benefits of growing investments in forest carbon projects.
The organization also reached out to stakeholders and policy makers at the United Nations Conference of Parties 16 on the subject of REDD+ financial, social and environmental issues; the policy positions it supported throughout the year are largely reflected in the UNFCCC’s Cancun Agreements.
The SAN’s Climate Module was also finalized in 2010, providing landmark guidance on climate change adaptation and mitigation for tropical farmers.
For its work in Education, the Rainforest Alliance was honored with the Stepping Stones Museum for Children’s Stepping Up for Children Award. During 2010, the education program promoted good global citizenship with school partners in Brooklyn, Newark and Jacksonville, helping to build environmental values among 291 teachers and 3,892 students. New educational tools were developed to help students understand climate change, the carbon cycle and the role forests play in stabilizing our climate. These new resources were piloted with our network of teachers in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. In 2010, the Rainforest Alliance’s web-based Learning Site — which includes facts about rainforest plants and animals, online games, virtual storybooks and activities, and comprehensive resources for teachers — received more than 1,093,000 page views and downloads.
Finally, 2010 marked the launch of the Rainforest Alliance’s new verification mark to recognize businesses and projects that have achieved significant and measurable sustainability milestones. The new mark is awarded to forest carbon projects and tourism and certain forestry enterprises that meet standards developed by the Rainforest Alliance itself or by other organizations aligned with the Rainforest Alliance.
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