Environmental organization that promotes food goods and other items whose manufacture it certifies as environmentally friendly
Seeks to place severe restrictions on industries it deems harmful to the environment, including agriculture, forestry, and tourism
The Rainforest Alliance (RA) seeks to place severe restrictions on industries it deems harmful to the environment, including agriculture, forestry, and tourism.
Founded in 1986 and attaining nonprofit status in 1987, RA has approximately 25,000 members in 53 countries worldwide and operates on an annual budget of $8.8 million. RA describes its mission as follows: "to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife that depend on them by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior." The organization has developed environmental standards for the harvesting of coffee, bananas, cocoa, citrus, ferns, and cut flowers, as well as for forestry practices and travel. It "certifies" certain product brands and service providers to assure consumers "that they are buying products and using services that are third-party guaranteed to be environmentally and socially friendly." Companies whose products RA has certified over the years include: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; Ben & Jerry's; Herbal Essences; Kraft Foods; and Procter & Gamble.
RA also certifies farms and tourism operations. Its certification programs extend even into the realm of religious practices: In April 2004, RA partnered with the Commission for Environmental Cooeration (CEC) in asserting that the Christian practice of distributing palms to worshippers on Palm Sunday is an ecologically undesirable practice. "Peasant workers," said RA, "often harvest the entire plant, leading to the over-harvesting of the species, the potential destruction of rain forests, and the depletion of many bird species that migrate to these regions in the winter."
RA focuses its efforts chiefly on the following program areas:
(a) Sustainable Agriculture: "The unbridled and unsustainable growth of the agriculture industry in recent years has encouraged rampant deforestation and careless agrochemical use. Today agriculture is the number one cause of ecosystem destruction and species loss worldwide. Agriculture … uses more land and freshwater than any other human activity in the world."
(b) Sustainable Forestry: "Because more than six billion people rely on trees and plants to build houses, produce paper, make furniture and stay warm, the pressures on the world's forests are staggering. … [T]he need to responsibly manage our forests is critical to the survival of all living species."
(c) Sustainable Tourism: "With 700 million people traveling each year, tourism is a growing source of revenue for people living in areas that are especially rich in plant and animals -- and threatened with destruction. … [RA] works with tourism entrepreneurs and community-based businesses in Latin America, providing them training and information on environmentally and socially sound management."
RA also administers an "Adopt-A-Rainforest" campaign, which collects donations from individuals, school groups, and community organizations to "support the purchase and sustainable management of tropical forest lands." Revenues for this program exceed $20,000 annually.
The Rainforest Alliance publishes a number of newsletters, including Canopy and Eco-Exhange, both bi-monthlies, and Rainforest Matters and Eco-Education Matters, two e-mail publications.
The Executive Director of the Rainforest Alliance, Tensie Whelan, believes that global inequities cause both environmental destruction and terrorism. She stated in an interview, "Many of the people providing tacit, though not active, support to the terrorists are doing so because these people are living in squalor and see no hope for themselves and their children. To the extent that the Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations can work with industry and government to ensure that globalization provides benefits to local communities, rather than exploit them and their environment, we will reduce their anger and despair."