We’ve just released our annual growth figures for 2009, and we’re delighted to announce that the number of companies buying from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms or forests has increased by 26 percent from the previous year. Whilst this is obviously great news for us, it’s even better news for the environment, and the farmers and their families who rely on it for their livelihoods.
We’ve seen continued growth in all of our programmes in sustainable forestry, agriculture, tourism and climate, despite an uncertain economic landscape. We can even go so far as to say that we are improving entire industries. For example, four out of the five top tea companies worldwide have committed to buying tea from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, and currently one out of every three cups of tea consumed in the UK contains leaves from Rainforest Alliance Certified tea plantations (see UK Frog Blog entry “The green frog takes a great leap forward in sustainable tea”
In forestry, the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood programme is a leading certifier to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, having certified 50 percent of FSC-certified lands worldwide. The FSC is considered the gold standard of well-managed forest certification, recognised by the world’s leading environmental organisations.
During 2009, the our SmartWood programme certified 22.2 million acres (9 million ha) of forestland, increasing the programme’s overall forest management area 18 percent to 145 million acres (59 million ha) worldwide. The programme also certified the first biomass pellet mill in the US to FSC standards, a first step to ensuring that efforts to promote energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not compromised by destructive impacts that can result from overharvesting wood.
There was a similar increase in the number of companies certified along the supply chain, through FSC Chain-of-Custody certification, a practice that ensures the traceability of an FSC-certified wood or paper product from the forest to the shop. FSC Chain-of-Custody certificates issued during 2009 grew 18.3 percent from the previous year to 2,783 certificates. In 2009, companies like Staples, Marks & Spencer, and Unilever ramped up their sourcing of FSC-certified goods.
We take a holistic approach to our work in sustainable agriculture, but focus our efforts in areas of high biodiversity, such as the tropics. Farms that meet rigorous environmental, social and economic standards for sustainability can earn Rainforest Alliance certification. We have brought over 1.2 million acres (501,471 ha) of farmland into sustainable production. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms protect waterways, curb deforestation, improve efficiency, ensure decent wages and housing for farm workers, improve worker safety, provide access to education for farm children, limit pesticide use and use less water. During 2009, the first large-scale group certification was awarded to over 12,000 smallholder tea farmers in Kenya and an addendum to the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, the standard used to audit for certification, was published for palm oil, soybean and sugar cane crops.
The volume of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee sold in 2009 grew 41 percent from the previous year to 87,583 metric tons. Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee currently accounts for an estimated 1.5 percent of coffee sold on the international export market, and roughly fifteen percent of bananas on the international market come from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. With public commitments from Kraft; Mars Incorporated; and several other collaborations with major cocoa traders and processors, the estimated sales of Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa increased 27 percent from 6,700 tons to 8,500 tons, helping thousands of cocoa farmers in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador and elsewhere raise their standard of living while conserving the trees, streams and soils on which they and future generations depend. Mars has made an industry changing commitment to source all their cocoa sustainably by 2020 including 100,000 tons of cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. The Galaxy chocolate bar has already launched here in the UK with the green frog seal. During the last year, the number of companies buying from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and using the seal on packaging increased by 40 percent to nearly 2,000 companies. PG tips now sources 100 percent of their tea from Rainforest Alliance Certified tea estates.
For our work in tourism, we received a 2009 Travel + Leisure Global Vision Award for upping the ante for sustainability standards in the tourism industry. The Rainforest Alliance was cited for the leadership role it has played in creating the Tourism Sustainability Council, a global membership body set to launch early next year. The council will promote widespread understanding of sustainable tourism principles and help travellers differentiate the truly eco-friendly from the greenwashers. Currently 507 tourism businesses are working with the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism programme, up 18 percent from 429 businesses in April 2008.
The climate initiative has also seen an upsurge in activity, to date validating or verifying 11 forest carbon projects representing 1,897,239 acres (768,113 ha). Together with partners like IMAFLORA, the Rainforest Alliance evaluates projects against standards including the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance, the Voluntary Carbon Standard and Plan Vivo. Recent accomplishments include the first validation of a community forest restoration project to the updated Plan Vivo Standards in Africa and the assessment of a new methodology used to reduce emissions from carbon-rich peatlands. We have more than 20 additional carbon projects currently in progress in over 20 countries.