Rainforest Alliance and Utz to merge

Two of the world’s leading sustainability certification organisations, The Rainforest Alliance and Utz, have announced they will merge later this year. The new organisation, to be named the Rainforest Alliance, will tackle environmental and social issues around the world, including climate change, deforestation, poverty and unsustainable farming. Announced on 6 June, the new organisation is said to “create a single agriculture sustainability standard” for farmers, will simplify the certification process, and continue to improve livelihoods for farmers and forest communities. Han de Groot, Utz Executive Director, said the merge comes as a result of increased and urgent challenges such as climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty, and inequality, which are affecting the way Utz manages land, food, and forest products. “The future Rainforest Alliance will have a bigger reach and stronger voice, allowing it to better protect the natural environment and allow farmers, businesses and consumers to make even more responsible choices, more easily,” Han said in a statement. “We have a history of continuous growth and strong partnerships – this new venture will give us more influence to bring us closer to our mission: a world where sustainable farming will be the norm.” Once the two organisations have merged, Han will become the CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer, current president of the Rainforest Alliance, will take on the role of Chief Program Officer, Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods. The new organisation aims to create a single global certification standard called the Rainforest Alliance standard. It will simplify certification for farmers, help marginal producers in developing countries realise higher returns for their products, empower companies to build more responsible supply chains, and create a single auditing process for certificate holders. It will also work to expand advocacy efforts and through new partnerships, ensure conservation of entire landscapes in priority regions from India to Indonesia, and Guatemala to Ghana. “By uniting with Utz, and partnered with SAN (Sustainable Agriculture Network), we will combine our strengths to expand our impact on improving the lives of farmers and forest communities, protecting biodiversity and championing companies that are on the path to sustainability,” said Nigel Sizer, President of the Rainforest Alliance. Streamlining the certification process will help the 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers currently certified under both standards and new farmers alike, to invest more efficiently in sustainability. Roberto Vélez, CEO Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), said thousands of Colombian coffee farmers will benefit from the merger. “It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs. This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability,” he said. By combining forces, the two NGOs also hope to increase consumer demand for responsibly sourced products, and encourage them to make better choices about what they buy. The two programs will continue to operate in parallel until a new standard is published in early 2019. Until then, both programs will continue to operate with independent certification bodies.

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