Third-Party Certification – A Tool to Ensure Sustainability

Reader Contribution by Anna Clark and Rainforest Alliance
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Many businesses claim their products are sustainable. But how can you, as a consumer, be sure that their claims really are true?

Third-party certification is the best way to demonstrates to the public that a company’s claims about itself are reliable, and have been substantiated by an independent, outside party.

Rainforest Alliance certification is built on three pillars of sustainability — environmental protection, social equity and economic viability — and no single pillar can support long-term success on its own. However, balancing environmental and social concerns with the economic, technical and cultural realities that loggers, farmers and tourism businesses face can be challenging. To address this challenge the Rainforest Alliance relies on standards that have been developed in collaboration with locally based NGOs and stakeholders (including government, businesses, scientists and academics). When farms and forestry operations meet these standards, they earn the right to use widely recognized marks signifying sustainability — the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal and/or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo — to attract conscientious consumers. 

 © Rainforest Alliance

Why certification? The Rainforest Alliance places great emphasis on third-party certification because we believe it is one of the most effective tools for conserving natural resources while helping local populations thrive. Rainforest Alliance certification is based on standards that ensure ecosystems are sustained, and workers have access to health care, training, dignified housing and education for their children. When land users and businesses produce goods and provide services according to these standards they are putting themselves on the path to a better future and protecting resources and the environment for generations to come And through the purchase of Rainforest Alliance Certified and Verified products and services, consumers can vote with their dollars –rewarding responsible businesses for their efforts.

Rainforest Alliance certification, of course, differs for farm and forest enterprises.

It’s awarded to farms that meet the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a comprehensive set of criteria developed by a coalition of locally based NGOs coordinated by the Rainforest Alliance. The SAN promotes efficient and productive agriculture, biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development through social and environmental standard setting.

Rainforest Alliance certification can also be awarded to forests and forestry operations that meet the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the world’s leading standard-setter for responsible forest management. The FSC promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests. The Rainforest Alliance is the leading FSC Forest Management certifier. Companies that are awarded FSC certification by the Rainforest Alliance earn the right to use our green frog seal in conjunction with the FSC logo.

Certification of a farm or forest begins with a preliminary site visit to determine the changes necessary for Rainforest Alliance certification. Once land managers decide that their methods meet comprehensive standards, they may request a full audit, which entails evaluation against a comprehensive set of criteria by a team of independent inspectors. Operations that meet the criteria are awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal or the FSC logo, demonstrating compliance with the standards. All farms and forests are evaluated annually to ensure continued compliance.

The Rainforest Alliance Certified green frog seal and the FSC logo have become widely recognized, credible symbols of sustainability. When choosing products featuring either of these marks, consumers can feel confident that they are supporting sustainable livelihoods, protecting wildlife and conserving the environment for future generations to come.

© Rainforest Alliance