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Dear Anna,

We welcome your engagement with Tim Beaty. We don’t dispute your contention that Rainforest Alliance certification includes a focus on improving livelihoods, but we note that you emphasize “farmers” which sidesteps a central issue for worker rights organizations like USLEAP and worker organizations and their unions. The issue, which has been raised with Rainforest Alliance for many years, is that Rainforest Alliance certifies large plantations where employers (a better term than “farmers” since that connotes to many the idea of small-scale, mom-and-pop operations) routinely violate the basic rights of their workers. In Latin America, where we work, the labor movement has denounced Rainforest Alliance certification in the banana sector (the Coordination of Latin American Banana Workers Unions, COLSIBA) and in the flower sector (e.g. Untraflores in Colombia, where Rainforest Alliance has certified about 20 plantations; Untraflores and others in Colombia say conditions are no better on these plantations than other plantations). The global union representing agricultural workers worldwide, the Geneva-based International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), has made quite clear that Rainforest Alliance certification falls far short when it comes to improving the livelihoods of workers and respecting their internationally-recognized worker rights. And unlike the case with the Fair Trade movement, Rainforest Alliance is not engaged in any meaningful dialogue with the labor unions in the sectors is certifies. For Rainforest Alliance to be credible on labor issues and worker rights, it needs to deal with the critiques of the labor movement.

Hi Tim,

I also want to make one further important distinction - the Rainforest Alliance was not founded by a corporation/group of corporations.

Actually, the organization was founded by a group of volunteers who shared a common passion and commitment for protecting the world's rainforests and improving livelihoods. Please see more info via the following link:
http://rainforest-alliance.org/about/history

Cheers,

Anna

Hi Tim,

I would like to correct your comment that “an increasing number of certification schemes (ie Rainforest Alliance, UTZ) are created by corporations who do not share our core beliefs and whose labels are motivated by capturing the fair trade premium, not to improve the livelihoods of folks along production chains.”

Rainforest Alliance certification does in fact focus on improving livelihoods. Rainforest Alliance certification does not guarantee a minimum price but rather emphasizes improving farming, rather than alternative marketing schemes. I’m sure you have heard of the saying, “Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” The Rainforest Alliance teaches farmers to farm smart with a farm management system, growing their bottom line and conserving the fertile soils and natural resources on which their children will depend. Any farmer’s success depends on crop quality, productivity and cost control. The Rainforest Alliance program addresses all of these. Higher prices are important, and most farmers in the Rainforest Alliance certification program are getting significantly higher prices for their crops. But farmgate prices are not a panacea. The system that is putting an emphasis on price is missing a number of other critical elements that influence whether or not farmers get out of poverty. Successful farmers learn to control costs, increase production, improve quality, build their own competence in trading, build workforce and community cohesion and pride, manage their precious natural resources and protect the environment.

Finally, I would like to point you to the joint statement that was issued by Fair Trade, Utz and the Rainforest Alliance that clearly states we all do in fact share the same common concern and we respect each other’s different approaches: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/newsroom/news/fairtrade-ra-san-utz-statement

Cheers,

Anna

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