As the effects of climate change are increasingly felt around the world, it has become the responsibility of businesses across all sectors to reduce their environmental impact.
In the coffee industry, many have taken measures such as eliminating single-use plastics, setting carbon emission goals, and switching to compostable packaging.
Another popular approach is to source green coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Founded in 1986, the Rainforest Alliance is a non-profit that aims to minimise ecological damage, improve the livelihood of farmers, and work towards raising agricultural standards.
Since launching it has helped countless communities across the globe, gaining recognition as a symbol of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
For coffee businesses, buying from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms is an effective way of not only limiting their environmental impact, but also giving back to the communities that produce coffee.
Read on to find out more about the Rainforest Alliance and how buying Certified coffee can benefit the supply chain.
What is the Rainforest Alliance?
The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation. Its mission is to work collaboratively with businesses and farmers to protect the natural environment and improve forest-farming communities.
It was co-founded in the mid 1980s by Daniel Katz, an American environmental activist, who sought to create a global programme to monitor, evaluate, certify, and audit forests.
Since then, it has grown to become a globally recognised organisation, operating in more than 60 countries around the world.
The Rainforest Alliance’s main work comes through its certification programme, which acts as a stamp of approval for farms that meet its strict environmental, social, and economic criteria.
Products from certified farms can carry the coveted “green frog” logo. This tells consumers that the product or ingredient was produced using methods that support the organisation’s high sustainability standards.
Since 2020, all products, except herbal teas and palm oil, must contain at least 90% of the certified ingredients to bear the logo.
In recent years, the Rainforest Alliance merged with its biggest sustainability certification rival, UTZ, and now operates a new Sustainable Agriculture Standard allowing compliant partner businesses to use the green frog logo.
How does the Rainforest Alliance help coffee farmers?
Coffee farmers face a number of challenges. Rising global temperatures and worsening climate conditions have increased the incidence of everything from fungal diseases to pest outbreaks, while unstable prices have created an atmosphere of perpetual uncertainty.
As part of its programme, the Rainforest Alliance works with producers to implement various strategies to mitigate potential losses caused by these types of issues.
Key to this is the guidance on crop diversification. Vast monoculture farming practices – the industry standard for decades – can leave soil nutrient levels depleted and require the use of chemical management, which causes further environmental harm. They also tend to rely heavily on fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Rainforest Alliance advocates agroforestry-style polyculture farms that regenerate forest ecosystems and offer a range of benefits to the farmer, their crops, and the environment – including a 50% increase in carbon sequestration compared to unshaded monocultures.
Farmers such as Juan Jiménez in Perú have been helped in restoring the biodiversity of their farms by introducing different, disease-resistant coffee varieties and alternative crops such as cacao, citrus, and bananas.
This intercession improves farms and profitability for farmers and leaves a more balanced ecosystem in place of a degraded environment.
But the Rainforest Alliance is not just targeting the agricultural lives of coffee farmers – it’s also looking to alleviate ethical and human rights issues.
Through its certification scheme, it operates an “assess and address” approach to tackling human rights issues within certified partner organisations.
These policies are a requirement under their certification programme and certified companies must implement internal monitoring for and removal of any human rights abuses. They focus particularly on areas and countries where abuses are likely and offer remedial training where needed.
A number of market leaders from Canada to the UK have already committed to using Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee for these exact reasons.
For example, Costa Coffee recently celebrated a 13-year partnership, having become the first UK coffee shop to source 100% of its coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in 2008.
What are the benefits of buying Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee?
Rainforest Alliance certification tells your customers that you care about the world we live in and the people we share it with.
It indicates not only that your business cares about environmental sustainability, but also that you are committed to eradicating human rights abuses.
Today, consumers place greater emphasis on ethical practices, with nearly 90% saying they want the businesses they buy from to make a positive social and environmental difference. As such, it is more important than ever to show your customers you care about more than just your end-of-year accounts.
It is not, however, just an issue of perception. The holistic sustainability of the coffee industry depends upon the sustainability of every aspect of its value chain.
Businesses that exploit other human beings for labour, or equally their natural environments, are inherently unsustainable. For the coffee industry to continue to survive, businesses must all work towards the solutions for the challenges we all now face.
To be sure that the coffee you are buying for your business has been grown ethically and sustainably, look out for the Rainforest Alliance’s little green frog logo or speak to your suppliers about their certifications and credentials.
Supporting Rainforest Alliance Certified producers should be a part of your company’s strategy to promote sustainability in the industry.
The long-term life of your business could depend on staying abreast of your environmental impact as it becomes a situation of increasing concern to us all.
As the widespread ban of single-use plastic becomes increasingly likely, it may also be time to consider introducing other eco-friendly measures, such as recyclable and compostable coffee packaging.
At MTPak Coffee, we’re committed to helping your coffee business reduce its environmental impact. We offer a range of compostable, recyclable, and biodegradable coffee bags that can be fully customised with everything from degassing valves to resealable zippers.
We also use recyclable water-based inks and low-emission printing methods to further reduce the carbon footprint of each bag.