Rainforest Alliance defends standard and adjustment process

Rainforest Alliance defends standard and adjustment process

The Rainforest Alliance (RFA) has issued a new statement defending their new standard and explaining the adjustments made due to criticism on the part of the banana industry.

The statement comes after a Dec. 18 meeting with banana sector organizations and retailers during which the RFA discussed its goals for sustainability behind its new certification standard. This is the most recent of several gatherings held since July.

According to the RFA, the development of the new certification program included a lengthy two-year process involving public consultation workshops and input from more than 1,000 stakeholders from 200 organizations in nearly 50 countries.

However, following the publication of the 2020 Standard, the banana sector expressed concerns that it did not take into account the unique challenges specific to perishable crops and the contract cycles of banana farms.

This resulted in the subsequent series of meetings which the alliance said resulted in the clarification of ambiguities within the standard and the fine-tuning of numerous requirements, definitions, and annexes. These adjustments are to be included upcoming version 1.1 of the 2020 standard.

The RFA also stated that feedback from these discussions led to an extension to the timeline for banana producers to implement the new standard granting an extra 18 months from July 1, 2021, as per the request of the banana sector organizations. To help support this implementation, it said that guidelines and policies have been developed for producers and other areas of the supply chain.

“The Rainforest Alliance has worked diligently to address serious concerns, provide improvements and adjust the specifics of the approach to ensure the new standard’s practicability,” the organization said. "We have responded to each inquiry from key stakeholders in writing, documented all improvements, and are now prepared to launch the revised standard in version 1.1."

An additional point emphasized by the RFA was the importance of the new Sustainable Differential (SD) and the Sustainability Investments (SI) approaches of the standard which were described as providing a necessary transition from a model that places the burden of sustainable production solely on producers to a new system where responsibility lies with the entire supply chain.

While there is continued criticism in regards to the RFA's consultation process and methodology in conducting its meetings, the organization stated “Unfortunately, some efforts to undermine third-party certification and broader sustainability initiatives have been disguised positioned as initiatives to improve our standard and approach. The Rainforest Alliance remains a principled organization, focused on improvements for farmers, farming communities, and nature. "

The RFA concluded that it will continue discussions to ensure that its programs and certification are significant in their impact.