Rainforest Alliance and UTZ to merge

Rainforest Alliance and UTZ to merge

From the press release:

7 JUNE 2017, AMSTERDAM AND NEW YORK—The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced 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 organization, 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.

My Initial Thoughts

One potential benefit of the merger is the reduction of double-certification, which may reduce the cost and administrative overhead of certification which would be a good thing. The reduction of the number of different certification standards could reduce marketplace confusion. However, the adoption of a “… single agricultural sustainability standard …” a stated goal of the merger, could prove to harmful in the long run, especially if the standard is of the checklist variety and does not acknowledge efforts that are beneficial that do not meet the checklist standards.

We will be following up on this as more information becomes available.

Archived Comments

I received the following email on this topic today:

Dear partner of the Rainforest Alliance,

In June 2017, we announced our intention to merge with UTZ, a leading certification program for coffee, cocoa, and tea. We are happy to inform you that we expect to complete the legal merger and begin working to build our new organization in January 2018. The new organization will take the name of the Rainforest Alliance.

We are joining forces to achieve greater impact and strengthen our position to meet the urgent challenges of today. Together, we will rejuvenate agricultural landscapes and conserve forests; foster sustainable livelihoods and build climate resilience across vulnerable regions; and transform business practices, drive supply chain innovation, and engage consumers in positive change.

We realize that you may have questions regarding how this merger will impact you. Below, we’ve provided answers to some of the most immediate questions you may have, and answers to other commonly asked questions can be found on our website Q&A. If you have more questions, we encourage you to contact us directly via feedback@ra.org.

What does the merger mean for companies?

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ agricultural certification programs will continue to run independently and in parallel, with no changes, until the publication of our new, combined agricultural standard and certification program in 2019. Companies sourcing Rainforest Alliance Certified™ agricultural products can proceed as usual. The same goes for companies that source UTZ products and also for those that source both Rainforest Alliance Certified and UTZ products.

Our new certification program will bring together the best of the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification programs. It will reduce the complexity of the certification process for companies that are now working with both programs, while increasing efficiency and flexibility so that we can continuously drive impact in the field and improve our service offerings to businesses.

We will invite collaborating companies to provide input into the development of the new certification system, and we will provide step-by-step guidance through the transition process (including any actions needed regarding sourcing, certification, or labeling, as well as opportunities for input and feedback on the process).

Who will benefit from the merger?

The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are merging because we want to achieve the greatest possible impact on the ground, while providing enhanced services for companies and other stakeholders. With a combined 45 years of leadership in sustainable agriculture, forest conservation, and improving livelihoods, the new Rainforest Alliance will have unparalleled depth and breadth of expertise across agricultural commodities, forested landscapes, and geographical regions.

The merger will deliver benefits across the supply chain, including a more efficient certification process—for example, one audit instead of two for farms holding both certifications—once the new certification program has been launched.

How will the new organization handle certification?

In 2019 we will publish our new, combined certification program, bringing together and building upon the best of the current Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certification systems. It will include a new standard for agricultural producers, a reorganized and improved assurance system, and a new chain of custody system. We will guide our company partners and our producers through a step-by-step transition that provides enough time to make the necessary changes. Neither companies nor producers are permitted to use UTZ and Rainforest Alliance labels interchangeably.

We already announced that the new organization will take the name Rainforest Alliance. Alongside this, we will continue to use and invest in the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ “green frog” seal, which brings strong consumer recognition and brand value.

A broad consultation will be carried out early 2018 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 our customers on how to manage the transition to the new certification program. We will reach out to stakeholders through a variety of channels to gather input.

What does this mean in practice?

Companies can continue sourcing and labeling both Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certified products at least until the publication of the new certification program in 2019. Once complete, we will guide you through a step-by-step transition to the new certification program, which will give you ample of time to make any necessary changes.

Companies are not permitted to use the labels or seals 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.

What does this mean for clients working with our certification unit, RA-Cert?

We are committed to the auditing services conducted by our RA-Cert team across forestry, agriculture, and tourism. These valuable programs will continue to be managed by expert staff from our offices and partners around the world. If you have any specific questions about RA-Cert, you can reach out to your local RA-Cert representative or email racert@ra.org.

We will be in touch with you again in January with an update on the integration process. We look forward to our continued collaboration on our shared mission.

Yours Sincerely,

Nigel Sizer
President, Rainforest Alliance
Future Chief Program Officer for Advocacy, Landscapes, and Livelihoods

Han de Groot
Executive Director of UTZ
Future CEO of the Rainforest Alliance

Here’s an interesting link to ratings of various FT programs:http://fairworldproject.org/resources/certifier-analysis/program-scope-geography-and-scale/

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