Two major certification programs, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, merge in an effort to combine their strengths and tackle issues of social equity across the globe.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
This month, UTZ, a certification program that aims to make sustainable farming a reality, finalized a merger with Rainforest Alliance that was originally announced last year. “The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ have merged in response to the critical challenges facing humanity: deforestation, climate change, systemic poverty, and social inequity,” the UTZ website states. “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.” The new organization will carry the Rainforest Alliance name.
Rainforest Alliance aims to certify farms, forest, and tourism enterprises that meet strict standards to promote sustainability on three fronts—environmental, social, and economic. UTZ is the largest certifying body of coffee and cocoa, along with certifying other commodities like (herbal) tea, rooibos, and hazelnuts. Together, the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ continue to work with farmers, companies, and governments to bring awareness to issues of climate change, drought, poverty, and other forces that threaten the sustainability of our food sources. Both use certifications not just to help create a pathway to sustainable practices for farmers, but also to indicate to buyers that the products they’re buying align with their standards, bringing in the entire supply chain to tackle these issues.
UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance both feel the immediacy of these issues, and merged in order to face them head-on. “Organizations like us can and must dramatically accelerate our impact,” a video detailing the merger shares. As for right now, the two certification programs are running parallel to one another (Rainforest-certified bodies aren’t automatically UTZ certified and vice versa), but there are plans to release a new set of certification standards in 2019. “Our goal is to develop a standard that is impactful and scalable, bringing together the best elements of both standards” an FAQ on the Rainforest Alliance website explains. “Our focus will be delivering positive impact to the farmers who work with it and 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.”