Exploring Certifications: Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance’s #FollowTheFrog campaign kicks off today and is meant to highlight sustainable efforts being made in farming regions all over the world. ecoGrounds has a long standing commitment to purchasing Rainforest Alliance certified coffees, in fact over 35% of the beans we buy bear the seal of the green frog. While the logo is recognizable, not many people know exactly what impact their purchase has at origin so we thought, in recognition of Follow the Frog, we would dig a little bit deeper into what is behind this certification.

Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities. By shopping for products bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, you support a healthy environment and help to improve the quality of life for farm families.

In order to earn Rainforest Alliance certification farms must comply with ten standards identified by Sustainable Agriculture Network. These standards are:

  1. Management System: Certified farms operate an environmental and social management system according to the complexity of their operations and in conformance with applicable local laws. Farms record their energy usage, making efforts to reduce it and use more renewable energy.
  2. Ecosystem Conservation: Farmers must conserve existing ecosystems and aid in the restoration of critical areas. They achieve this by taking steps to protect waterways and wetlands from erosion and contamination, prohibiting logging and other deforestation, and maintaining vegetation barriers.
  3. Wildlife Protection: The hunting of wild animals is prohibited on certified farms, as is the keeping of wild animals in captivity and the extraction of wild plants.
  4. Water Conservation: Certified farms do not contribute significantly to the pollution of rivers, lakes or groundwater and they treat their waste-water.
  5. Working Conditions: Farms employees are treated with respect and in accordance with the main conventions of the International Labor Organization. They are paid a legal minimum wage and have access to education and healthcare services. Minors under 15 years of age or the age established by local law are not contracted.
  6. Occupational Health: Certified farms have occupational health and safety programs to reduce the risk of accidents and to support the health of workers exposed to hazardous activities such as the operation of machinery or the application of authorized pesticides.
  7. Community Relations: Certified farms are good neighbors in their communities. They inform the surrounding communities and local stakeholder groups about their activities and plans. They discuss the potential impacts of their activities and contribute to local development through employment, training and public works.
  8. Soil Conservation: Certified farms use organic fertilizers, propagate ground cover vegetation and plant natural barriers to reduce erosion and runoff of sediments to rivers, streams and lakes. Fire is never used to prepare new plots for production.
  9. Integrated Crop Management: Certified farms monitor crop pests and use biological or mechanical methods for pest control as a first choice. If pests cause considerable damage, certain pesticides can be used but only by applying them using every possible safeguard for the protection of the workers, the communities and the environment.
  10. Integrated Waste Management: Certified farms are aware of the types and quantities of wastes they generate. Wastes are managed through programs for recycling, reducing consumption and reuse. Wastes are sorted, treated and disposed of in ways that minimize environmental and health impacts for the workers and the communities. Farms are aware of their greenhouse gas emissions and how to reduce their carbon footprint.

While certification is not easy to achieve, the benefits coffee producers experience makes the process worth it. Rainforest Alliance certified coffees typically sell for a higher price and the requirements for certification improve overall product quality, farm efficiency, and worker conditions. So next time you see the green frog on our ecoGrounds packaging know that you are supporting a coffee that was sustainably grown to benefit farm families, wildlife, and the environment.

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