The series explores several existing certifications for specialty coffee, including a review of the mission, standard scope, charging-payment criteria, and other vital requirements you need to know about. You can read previous articles about organic certification, Fair Trade, Non-GMO or Direct Trade.
Rainforest Alliance Certification Summary
Before we get started, here’s a basic summary of Rainforest Alliance (RFA) certification principles.
- Based on industry-specific requirements, a certification will be given to eligible agricultural, forest, and tourist products/services.
- Third-party certification for farmers necessitates evaluating third parties’ demanding social, environmental, and economic requirements.
- Small and large-scale farms and small farmer households organized into member groups or cooperatives are eligible for certification.
- Certification does not guarantee a minimum price for the manufacturer but includes an expense called “Sustainability differential,” a mandatory premium that the buyer pays higher than the market price for the goods.
- Certified manufacturers’ net income is measured based on the standard of living income, and assessments are designed to identify and address human rights issues such as housing for workers, child labor, forced labor, and several other safeguards.
- Sustainable farming methods such as crop rotation, land management, safe use of agrochemicals and pest control, water conservation, and environmentally friendly waste treatment are required, GMOs are banned.
- There are no quality standards related to any score in certification.
Origins of Rainforest Alliance certification
Through this series of posts, you can begin to realize that many of the most standard certifications for coffee began at the same time, from the late 1980s to the 1990s. Rainforest Alliance (RFA) certification is similar;
Deforestation during that time was a severe environmental problem and increased interest in the decline of the ozone layer and other climate concerns. Between 1960 and 1990, a total of 20% of the world’s rainforests were destroyed.
This crisis inspired environmentalist Daniel Katz to hold an emergency conference in 1986. RFA was conceived as a non-governmental organization focused on climate change as the root of countless corresponding problems leading to widespread poverty in rural areas and workers. Agriculture. Economies.
By 1989, RFA had developed and issued a sustainable forestry standard, which encouraged forest conservation worldwide; By 1992, the organization began providing certification to individual farms and cooperatives, starting with two banana farms.
In 1995, the first coffee farm was certified, and now, there are more than 194,000 RFA-certified coffee farmers and 286,461 workers (coffee majors) in 25 countries across the world. Over 10% of the world’s coffee will be RFA certified by 2018. More than 70 nations now have certificates from the organization.
In 2018, RFA combined with another certification scheme known as UTZ, or Utz Kapeh, which in Mayan Quiché means “excellent coffee.” Like RFA, UTZ certification focuses on farm codes of conduct that create livestock and farming methods and requirements for the environment, human rights, and general management.
RFA and UTZ have completely unified with their goal and vision with a new set of integrated standards launched in 2020. We now refer to rainforest alliance or rainforest alliance/UTZ as a single certification.
What you need to know about rainforest alliance certification
Rainforest Alliance certification comes with a long and comprehensive set of farm requirements divided into tiers and designed with the idea of “continuous improvement”: After achieving compliance with a series of reached/unattainable core requirements, farms will be required for improvement annually after that.
Some of these improvements are mandatory, evaluated on-again/failed basis, and tested in 3- or 6-year periodic programs. In contrast, others are used more widely to set goals and are less urgent in their structure.
The six farm certification criteria covering some of the critical areas UTZ considers the foundation of sustainability include:
- Farm Management – The first criterion focuses on management efficiency for small and large tissue farms and those managed by a team. There are regulations on leadership representation related to gender and age groups and requirements for accurate risk assessment and accountability in complaints, fund distribution, resources, training, etc.
- Income – These standards focus on living income, the payment of sustainability disparities for farmers, and transparency related to partner (buyer) investments in improvement plans on participating farms.
- Traceability – Farms must provide accurate documentation and output estimates.
- Farming Practices – Various requirements related to farm activities include planting and rotation techniques, pruning, fertilizer use, the safe application of approved agrochemicals and pesticides, training and implementation of quality-focused harvesting, and post-harvest processes.
- Human Rights – This regulation prohibits children and forced labor and violence or harassment in the workplace; Requires employment contracts for all those who work for more than three consecutive months; Affirm workers’ rights and require primary conditions for workers, such as safe housing and sanitary conditions.
- Environment – The crux of RFA is the intersection of all of the above criteria and a set of environmental protection standards. The certification requirements are included: endangered species preservation, reforestation initiatives, increased energy efficiency in farms and plants, water conservation, and respect for human-animal interactions.
While several criteria are considered a mandatory part of achieving RFA certification, the essence of the program is that farmers will continue to improve annually, and regular reviews will monitor both core compliance and cumulative improvements made by manufacturers.
Guidance pay and quality
Unlike Fair Trade/Fairtrade, rainforest alliance certification does not have a minimum base price or guaranteed pre-pricing for goods. Instead, RFA imposes a “Sustainability differential,” which requires buyers to pay farmers in cash. This additional cash payment is not fixed but is determined by market price, quality, output – and can be challenging to determine if you are looking for specifics on the RFA website or in their printed documentation.
In addition, like Fair Trade/Fairtrade, there are no specific criteria for product quality in RFA certifications: Although quality is an abstract part of the market appeal to RFA-certified coffee, farmers must aim for high-quality products through their practices and policies, no scores or goals are mentioned requirements.
To become a member of the Rainforest Alliance.
Two types of agricultural assessments are needed for Rainforest Alliance certification: Certification evaluations and mid-term monitoring assessments are conducted every two years.
The certification evaluation is intended to determine the amount of risk on the farm, considering the effects of climate change, gender inequality, and potential signs of labor-related labor such as child labor, harassment, or violence in the workplace, among other factors.
Before a certificate is awarded, they evaluate the necessary fundamental requirements that a farm must meet. Monitoring evaluations are used to keep track of progress and handle potential hazards or problems to find excellent long-term solutions. These include long-term mandatory improvements (for 3 or 6 years) and voluntary improvement projects decided by farmers.
Farmers are responsible for applying for rainforest alliance certification as well as renting and paying the certification body: The cost of the evaluation process is not specified in the RFA, and fees will vary depending on several factors, including the size and complexity of the operation, as well as the farm’s geographic location.
Farmers must also pay for any compliance-related modifications required to acquire and maintain certification. There are various fees and levies for people who wish to acquire and resell RFA-certified items.
As previously noted, the “sustainability difference” is a premium that purchasers must pay farmers over market pricing for their products. There are other costs associated with audits and risk evaluations. Finally, for every product labeled “Rainforest Alliance-certified,” member firms must pay RFA output-based royalties.
Is rainforest alliance-certified coffee better?
As with any certification program, there are benefits and limitations that one needs to consider before definitively asserting that coffee has a particular certification objectively “better” than unmarked coffee.
Among the most frequently seen certifications of coffee, rainforest-alliance org service alliance certification appears to have the most comprehensive list of human rights-related standards. Includes living and working conditions, health, childcare, time off for sickness, maternity.
Temporary and permanent contracts for employees and protect workers’ rights to resolve complaints safely. Moreover, environmental behavior is more holistic than organic certification, as it considers not only agricultural land but also forests, natural resources, and surrounding local communities.
On the other hand, there are some rather vague aspects to Rainforest Alliance certification, such as the cost for manufacturers to gain and maintain certification and the lack of premiums at fixed prices or minimum floor prices to protect risks in the event of a market crash.
There are also no specific requirements for the quality of coffee, which can lead to confusion in the market. Finally, to sell coffee products stamped rainforest alliance, roasters must arrange their evaluation and certification process:
You can find the instructions and requirements here. As a Rainforest Alliance-certified business, your operator will be responsible for traceability, record-keeping, and quantity-based royalties.