Posted on June 8, 2017

Global sustainable ag certifiers to merge

Rainforest Alliance, UTZ to combine, fight climate change, poverty, deforestation as one entity

Two of the world’s leading agriculture sustainability certifiers, Rainforest Alliance (RA) and UTZ Certified, will merge operations at the end of the year, in an effort to cut redundancies, invest in new technologies, and simplify auditing for hundreds of thousands of farmers around the globe.

"We will combine the Rainforest Alliance’s public-facing brand, success in forest and landscape conservation, and working with local communities, with UTZ’s innovative way of bringing sustainable business practices to scale," the groups said Wednesday.

The groups made the announcement Wednesday, saying the merged entity will be keep the Rainforest Alliance name, and UTZ Executive Director Han de Groot will be CEO of the new entity, while Nigel Sizer, current RA president, will take on the role of chief program officer for advocacy, landscapes and livelihoods.

“The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever: climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty, and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food and forest products,” de Groot said in a statement.

A single, sustainability standard known as the Rainforest Alliance standard will be published in 2019, along with Chain of Custody protocal, and utilize the respective strengths of the current Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and UTZ standards while creating a single auditing process for certificate holders.

For instance, the 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers who are currently certified under both standards will see savings by avoiding the double administrative load of implementing two standards, and only need one audit instead of two, meaning they can invest more efficiently in sustainability.

Sizer emphasized the two groups’ missions were very similar, working with farmers and communities in an effort to protect the natural environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change on a global scale.

“By uniting with UTZ, and partnered with SAN, 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,” Sizer said in a statement.

All board members from both RA and UTZ will join the new board, along with three representatives from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN); there will be two main offices, in Amsterdam and New York.

The groups said more information about a timeline for the merger will be released in the fall. "In the time before the new standard is launched, we will look into easing the transition where possible, for example extending the possibilities for joint audits," the groups said.

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