- 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
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:
- Forests: Emphasizing that “forests are critical to the survival of every living thing on Earth” because they “clean the air, regulate weather, absorb greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilize the climate,” RA uses “a comprehensive range of strategies to … hel[p] prevent the deforestation of nearly 4.4 million hectares in high-risk landscapes and forest frontiers.” One of the Alliance’s more noteworthy initiatives is its “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.”
- Wildlife: Lamenting that “we’re losing thousands upon thousands of species every year, with up to 50 percent of all species at risk of disappearing completely by 2050,” RA “protects biodiversity through landscape management that helps conserve standing forests, rejuvenate degraded land, and protect rivers and streams.”
- Climate: On the premise that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are major contributors to potentially catastrophic global warming, RA asserts that “there is nearly 100 percent agreement among scientists” that anthropogenic “climate change is real.” This phenomenon, says RA, has led to an increase in the incidence of hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, famine, and economic insecurity across the globe. “Fighting climate change and building resilience to its impact are urgent priorities for us all,” says RA, which aims to advance that objective by limiting “deforestation and forest degradation.” In 2015 the Alliance also supported what it called “the historic United Nations Paris Climate Agreement,” which, as author and scholar Ben Shapiro explains, advocated the imposition of “crippling regulations on our economy” so as to limit carbon emissions, in exchange for possibly lowering global temperatures “by a grand total of 0.2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.” In addition, RA supports “cap-and-trade” initiatives and “carbon offset” programs designed to keep greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum.
- Food and Farming: Because “agriculture drives 80 percent of tropical deforestation and about 1.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year,” RA emphasizes the importance of “maximizing harvests on existing cropland.” Thus the Alliance trains farmers “in some of the world’s most vulnerable landscapes” to farm in a way that “conserves forests, protects streams and rivers, nurtures soil health, and boosts crop yields.”
- People: RA has co-founded a Global Living Wage Coalition, a group of non-governmental organizations that calculate how much money workers in each country around the world must earn in order to afford “a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.”
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.
- “Who We Are” (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “Our Approach“; “What Does Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Mean?“; “Find Certified Products” (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “Palm Sunday Not Environmentally Friendly, Groups Say” (CNS News, 7-7-2008).
- “Forests“; “Adopt A Rainforest” (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “Wildlife” (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “Climate“; “6 Claims Made By Climate Change Skeptics—And How To Respond,” 3-27-2017; “Time Is Running Out: The Twin Perils Of Deforestation And Climate Change,” 5-5-2017; “Making Sense Of Tools To Fight Global Warming,” 6-5-2015. (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “Food and Farming” (Rainforest-Alliance.org).
- “People“; “About the Global Living Wage Coalition” (GlobalLivingWage.org).