Founded in 1986 and attaining nonprofit status in 1987, the Rainforest Alliance (RA) describes itself as an international non-profit organization of “farmers, foresters, communities, scientists, governments, environmentalists, and businesses” whose mission is to “conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior.”
RA seeks to place severe restrictions on industries that it deems harmful to the environment, most notably agriculture, forestry, and tourism. Toward that end, the Alliance provides leaders and policy-makers in those industries with training and guidelines to help them “minimize their environmental impacts.” For example, RA has developed environmental standards for the harvesting of coffee, bananas, cocoa, citrus, ferns, and cut flowers, as well as for forestry and travel-related practices. When a company in any of these fields satisfactorily meets RA’s standards, that company and the products it manufactures may become “certified” by RA. As the Alliance explains: “Our … certification seal indicates that a farm, forest, or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability.”
RA presently conducts training, certification, and verification programs in 78 countries around the world. As of late 2017, the Alliance had collaborated with the Sustainable Agriculture Network to train more than 1. 3 million people in its agriculture, forestry, and tourism certification initiative.
RA’s certification programs have been known to extend even into the realm of religious practices. In April 2004, for instance, RA partnered with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in asserting that the Christian practice of distributing palms to worshipers on Palm Sunday is an ecologically undesirable practice. “Peasant workers,” the activists said, “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.”
For a chronological history of RA’s activities in various countries or regions around the world, click here.
Today, RA focuses its efforts chiefly on the following program areas:
Over the years, RA has received financial support from many charitable foundations. Among these are the AT&T Foundation, the Bank of America Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Blue Moon Fund, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Lear Family Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Summit Charitable Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
For information about RA’s top executives and their backgrounds, click here.