Authored by 

DANIEL R. KATZ
Board Chair,
Rainforest Alliance

TOWARDS THE NEXT GENERATION OF CERTIFICATION 

For nearly 20 years, the Rainforest Alliance has worked with Nespresso to help secure the stable, long-term supply of sustainably sourced high-quality coffee and to create positive environmental, social and economic impacts. This includes protecting the natural environment and improving the wellbeing of farmers and communities; training on farm management to increase the productivity of the land and improve the quality of the harvest; and helping build resilience to climate change through climate-smart agricultural practices.

Looking ahead, we see new opportunities. We are bringing certification into the next generation through “reimagined certification” that will drive continuous improvement. We will develop tailored services to meet specific needs of partner companies such as Nespresso; and we will increase our level of advocacy and consumer engagement to help drive meaningful change beyond the supply chain.

With the support of long-term partners like Nespresso, the Rainforest Alliance will be able to drive its vision of a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.

A FUTURE WHERE NATURE IS PROTECTED, BIODIVERSITY FLOURISHES AND FARMERS PROSPER 

The Rainforest Alliance was established in 1987 to address the impact of agriculture on the destruction of tropical forests and has grown to be a global organisation working to build a future in which nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes, where farmers, workers, and communities prosper, and where sustainable land use and responsible business practices are the norm. The organisation is perhaps best known for the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ ‘green frog’ seal, awarded to products and ingredients that are sustainably sourced and that meet the criteria of the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard or FSC Standard. 

Currently the Rainforest Alliance is active in 76 countries, working on sustainable supply chains of more than 100 crops and wood and pulp-based products.

In the early 1990s, the Rainforest Alliance and other NGOs in the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) developed the first guidelines for coffee farming defined as socially responsible, environmentally friendly and economically viable. This concept has been adapted to many kinds of farming worldwide. In late 2017, SAN granted the Rainforest Alliance an exclusive and perpetual license to its Standard, which was renamed the ‘Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard.’

A SHARED VISION WITH NESPRESSO 

The Rainforest Alliance Theory of Change focuses on how the system of certification system contributes to improving farming practices, management systems, and farmer knowledge. These help to improve biodiversity, natural resources, farm productivity and profitability – supporting the wellbeing of farmers, workers and their families. As we scale this across thousands of farms and connect with other stakeholders, resilient rural landscapes are advanced. 

The Rainforest Alliance and Nespresso remain steadfastly aligned on the need for sustainable agriculture and on zero tolerance to the use of child labour and banned agrochemicals. Our mutually reinforcing visions have served as a strong basis to grow our partnership and led to the development of a monitoring and evaluation tool that highlights on-the-ground performance and deficiencies to be addressed.

THE BIRTH OF THE AAA SUSTAINABLE QUALITY PROGRAM 

Nespresso had longstanding expertise in selecting the highest quality coffee beans and was seeking a way to improve overall sustainability and continued quality. By partnering with the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), sustainability and farming practice expertise could be harnessed too. 

Together, we developed and launched the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in 2003. We proved that a farm can be socially and environmentally responsible while producing gourmet quality beans and increasing farmer income.

DEMONSTRATING FLEXIBILITY, COOPERATION AND LEARNING FOR GREATER IMPACT 

In 2009, after six years of producer training and fine-tuning of the approach, Nespresso sought to bring a significant portion of their AAA producers into the full Rainforest Alliance certification program. A strategy was developed in which Nespresso committed that 40% of its coffee would be sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms, and 80% from AAA farms by 2017 (which by 2020, had increased to 90%).

To bring this to life, a common system for farm audits was developed. 

SEE THE OUTCOME OF AAA FARM AUDITS/ASSESMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA

Together, we have learned how to effectively promote continuous improvement, which is now at the heart of both the AAA approach and the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. 

 

THE POSTIVE IMPACTS OF CERTIFICATION 

Nine years in, more than 16,000 producers have been granted certification. This impressive achievement has led to an additional, annual 220,000 MT of high-quality coffee being certified annually. This is good news for farmers since, as well as Nespresso purchasing a proportion of this coffee, the remaining can be sold at more favourable prices too. 

Independent studies have demonstrated the positive impacts of certification (see the 2019 Rainforest Alliance Certification Impacts Report for references and more details) including farmer income, ecosystem health, and farmer and worker conditions.

Researchers in Brazil found that Rainforest Alliance Certified (RAC) farms experienced increases in profit due to the increase in yield during the first years of certification, while profits on nearby non-certified farms decreased over the same period.

Researchers in Colombia found that coffee yields on RAC farms were twice that of non-certified farms, and net revenue was 2.5 times higher. In that same country, researchers found significantly more certified farms protecting water sources and the overall environment. 

We encourage good business practices to reward responsible coffee production through higher prices and premiums which is key to support the sustainability journey of farmers, especially at times of global low price levels.

A PARTNERSHIP FOR REIMAGINING CERTIFICATION 

Nespresso is one of the largest coffee certification partners of the Rainforest Alliance. Our collaboration has fostered a deeper understanding of how to best support sustainable coffee farming and to increase impact. Both the AAA Program and the Rainforest Alliance certification standard have evolved to support producers on their journey of continuous improvement in areas such as productivity and in the development of a business approach to farming.

In addition to the benefits to producers, farmers and communities, our partnership also helps educate consumers and meet the demand for sustainably sourced coffee. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of the products they enjoy and are influenced in brand choice by the issues of sustainability. A study released by Nielsen in October 2018 called ‘What’s Sustainability Got To Do With It?’ found that coffee sales for sustainable brands grew much faster than traditional brands, and that consumers “look for attributes related to sustainability in the products they choose and expect the manufacturers they reward with their purchasing power to operate responsibly.”

Among consumers worldwide, recognition of the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal as a trusted mark for sustainability is as high as 58%, and the decision by Nespresso to feature the seal on its packs will help to further this connection and engage consumers in the impact of their daily coffee choice.

From farmer to consumers and across the coffee value chain, the Rainforest Alliance and Nespresso are working to drive meaningful change together. We look forward to an ongoing partnership of continued positive impact.