Two of coffee’s farthest reaching certification agencies, Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based UTZ Certified and New York-based Rainforest Alliance have announced their intention to merge under the Rainforest Alliance name.
In an announcement today, the organizations said the unified NGO will tackle environmental and social issues including climate change, deforestation, and unsustainable farming in a new, single certification standard to be published in early 2019.
“Together, we will continue to protect the natural environment, striving to make sustainable agriculture and forest management the norm, an aim that is already at the core of the mission of both the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ,” the groups said.
In addition to certification programs for cocoa, tea and hazelnuts, UTZ currently boasts of being the largest sustainability platform in the world for coffee, with a baseline standard that works toward traceability throughout the supply chain, and mandatory check points in a code of conduct that works toward improved and sustainable agricultural practices. Massive coffee brands such as Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Tchibo, Folgers and Paulig have greatly extended the reach of UTZ-certified coffee.
Based on Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards, Rainforest Alliance certification is process-oriented, meaning it can be granted to farms working to meet the standards, which encompass environmental, economic and social sustainability goals. The 30-year-old Rainforest Alliance has been working in the coffee sector since 1995, with an overarching goal to curb deforestation, although it is worth noting that neither the current UTZ certification nor RA certification require coffee farms to have shade cover.
Rainforest Alliance certification has extended its reach in recent years from companies including McDonald’s, Caribou Coffee, Keurig, Second Cup and Nespresso.
The groups estimate that 182,000 coffee, cocoa and tea farmers are currently certified by both standards, and said a single standard to be published in early 2019 — followed by an implementation period that has yet to be determined — will help farmers lighten the administrative burden of complying with two separate certifications.
When the two NGOs merge, UTZ Executive Director Han de Groot will assume the role of executive director of the new Rainforest Alliance, while current RA president Nigel Sizer will take the role of chief program officer in advocacy, landscapes and livelihoods.
UTZ has set up a barebones Q&A for more on the planned merger, including some questions targeted to farmers and buyers.