At Verena Street®, we take fairness seriously. We source all of our coffee beans through Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. What does this mean to you? Probably not much, but it does mean a lot to all those that Rainforest Alliance helps along the way.
So, what exactly is Rainforest Alliance?
The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities. Farms that meet rigorous standards for sustainability earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal.
These standards conserve biodiversity, ensure that soils, waterways and wildlife habitat is protected and that farm workers enjoy decent housing, access to medical care and schools for their children. Farms must commit to a process of continuous improvement and are audited each year in order to maintain their certification.
Smallholder farmers who earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal farm more efficiently, reduce their costs and often earn a higher price for their cocoa/coffee/tea.
What is the difference between Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade?
Rainforest Alliance certification is entirely different from Fair Trade in both the focus and strategy of their missions. The standards of Fair Trade are designed to overcome poverty and empower producers in the world’s poorest countries, giving them a guaranteed price for their products. Rainforest Alliance certification focuses on how farms are managed, with certification being awarded to farms that meet the extensive standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of conservation groups in America, Africa, Asia and Europe that supports the adoption of best agricultural practices.
The standards of SAN encompasses all three pillars of sustainability—social, economic, and environmental and gives farmers the knowledge and skills to negotiate for themselves in the global marketplace. Rainforest Alliance certification and training are teaching farmers, farm workers, and their families to farm responsibly and efficiently, ensuring their bottom lines grow today while conserving the soil and natural resources on which they and their future generations will depend in the future.
Smallholder farmers who earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal use fewer agrochemicals, which is not only better for the environment and their communities, but also saves them money.
Both organizations believe in the urgent need to transform agricultural practices and they share the belief that certification by credible systems are able to help with that transformation. There are many countries and people in the world that toil away to grow and produce without anything to show for it and are depleting the soil and natural resources in how they go about it. Each of these organizations are committed to working towards both tackling unsustainable production and market practices.
Smallholder farmers who earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal protect waterways, soils and sensitive ecosystems, helping to maintain a clean water supply for their families and their surrounding communities.
They also share a commitment to high standards in their work, which is why they are both members of ISEAL, a worldwide association for social and environmental standards which works with companies, nonprofit organizations, and governments to support their use of voluntary standards. They are also members of the Global Living Wage Coalition, an ISEAL facilitated initiative that recognizes that living wage is crucial to individual certification programs, and so they have agreed to a shared approach for measuring living wage.
Rainforest Alliance certification prohibits farms from using forced labor or hiring anyone under the age of 15. Farm group administrators work to provide healthcare for workers and access to education for children. Workers are protected from excessive work hours, wage withholding and other exploitative practices.
In 2014, the State of Sustainability Initiatives Review did a study which reviewed independent organizations on social, environmental, and economic indices. The Rainforest Alliance/Sustainable Agriculture Network scored the highest overall average (84 percent) in terms of social impact, above Fair Trade (73 percent), and organic (51 percent).
It's also worth noting that these labels are not mutually exclusive, and that you can often find many products with more than one of these seals.
So why choose coffee that is Rainforest Alliance Certified™?
After looking at both Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade, we don't think one is better than the other. We feel happy to buy and support either Fair Trade- or Rainforest Alliance-certified products; both are trying to do good which, in our opinion, is a step in the right direction.
Smallholder farmers have reported that wildlife have returned to their Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.
By shopping for products bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, you are supporting a healthy environment and helping to improve the quality of life for farm families.
Here at Verena Street®, we feel it is our ethical duty to value the people who grow the coffee we roast as well as ensure sustainability practices for future generations.