On January 9, 2018 The Rainforest Alliance formally merged with UTZ, the largest certification program for sustainable farming of coffee, cocoa, tea, and hazelnuts in the world. The two groups joined forces in order to achieve a better position to face the world environmental challenges more effectively.
The “new” Rainforest Alliance explained everything about the merging through a thorough Q&A on their website. The answer to the most obvious question (“why did the RA and UTZ feel the need to merge?”) is quite simple, yet somehow heartbreaking: threats like deforestation, climate change and social inequity are proving to be too tough opponents to be defeated without combining the strenghts that were available to the two groups.
In order to face these challenges effectively, a simple collaboration wasn’t enough and merging turned out to be the best way to address the problem and get a stronger voice.
As traceability is an irreplaceable ally to sustainability, the importance of independent and rigorous third-party monitoring is growing up in popularity – in this regard, thanks to the merging the Rainforest Alliance is getting a broader geographical reach and greater benefits for farming and forest communities, companies, and obviously consumers.
In order to face the most urgent crisis of our environment it is essential that goverments and companies, as well as farmers and consumers, are ready to offer effective collaboration – that’s why the Rainforest Alliance is already working on a new certification program.
The new program will be published in 2019, and it will bring together the most efficient features of the previous UTZ and RA’s certification systems. 2018 is going to be a pivotal year for the group, as the RA is currently focusing on the products they will be working over the medium term and discussing the strategy that will allow the group to achieve its goals.
A timeline has been published on the Rainforest Alliance website, and it sums up the main steps of the process that will produce the new program. June 2018 will be focused on the setting of the hig-level goals of the new certification program, creating a Terms of Reference document. The time frame between November and December 2018 will be devoted to discussing a first draft of the standard, and the Rainforest Alliance will run a public consultation that will include an open online survey. Over the year 2019, the input from the public will be considered in order to review the first draft of the standard, and possibly a second consultation round will be organized.
Once the document is approved by the Rainforest Alliance Standards Committee, it will be published as a new standard for farmers, chain of custody and labeling policies.
Waiting for the publishing of the new standard, the previous certification programs issued by the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ are running in parallel.
In view of the upcoming global consultation planned for 2018, which will be open to all stakeholder groups, we are eager to see a large-scale involvement and a massive participation.
The Rainforest Alliance is ready to step up sustainability and making traceability more and more impactful and scalable, and this is the kind of future we would like to take part in.