Response to Rainforest Alliance

Regarding the comment that my previous post received, I thought I’d write a response.

The crucial difference between the two is a commitment to tackling the root causes of poverty, and addressing the injustices of the current trade system.

Whereas Rainforest Alliance may provide a minimum wage on the farms, there appears to be no price guarantee for the products. Fair Trade tackles the issue of trade injustice, aiming to get a better deal for the producers, and to reverse the current trade system. They each have a different focus, Fair Trade aims to empower the poor, change the trade system and improve the lot of producers in developing countries. Rainforest Alliance is primarily committed to environmental sustainability.

Both classifications have their merits, aiming to abolish child labour and adhere to International Labour Organisation standards.

However, the Fair Trade mark represents a partnership between the buyer and the producer, paying a Fair Trade premium (to encourage community development) and a guaranteed minimum price, no matter what the market does. Farmers certified by the Rainforest Alliance have no such guarantee, and rely on market prices to ensure their income. Such instability can compromise sustainability.

Rainforest Alliance has indeed higher environmental standards than Fair Trade, yet the Fair Trade mark always indicates that it is 100% Fair Trade, unlike the varying amounts in Rainforest Alliance certified products.

I have to say that it is really encouraging to see such commitment to sustainable and fair trade with developing countries. My point was not to deride the Rainforest Association, because it clearly represents a great step towards a trading system that acknowledges the importance of protecting the environment and addressing social issues. My aim in writing about this is to examine the differences and try and bring a bit of clarity to what is becoming a confusing array of labels for the consumer.

Ultimately, for me, it’s the people that matter, and I am committed to buying Fair Trade.

Rainforest Alliance Standards

Fairtrade Foundation FAQs

A Fairtrade blog

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Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The Rainforest Alliance have a discussion on the differences on their website:
    http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture.cfm?id=faq_fairtrade
    and this report is useful if you want more information on the differences:
    http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/documents/coffee_report.pdf

    Just seems a shame you have to do so much digging around just to get some answers to a seemingly simple question.

  2. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your clarification and second post. To address your point about minimum price, it should be noted that Rainforest Alliance certification puts the emphasis on improved farming practices rather than on alternative marketing schemes. Any farmer’s success depends on crop quality, productivity, cost control and sale price. The Rainforest Alliance program addresses all four. The program is a hand up for those who need it, not a hand out. It gives farmers more control over their own futures and empowers them to be better business people. Higher prices are important, and most farmers in the Rainforest Alliance certification program are getting significantly higher prices for their goods. 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. We see many farmers earning high prices and still failing. 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. We are teaching 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.

    Our website is under redesign so we hope to have this sort of information more accessible to visitors on our site.

    Naturally, you are entitled to your opinion and your preferences, but I just thought you’d like to hear how we see it from our perspective.

    Best,
    Abby


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