The Rainforest Alliance does not claim to be a rival to the Fairtrade Foundation, and is at pains to differentiate itself.
The Rainforest Alliance’s main mission is to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife within them by transforming land-use practices and consumer behaviour.
While it was set up 17 years ago, Rainforest Alliance marketing manager Sabrina Vigilante admits that recognition of the brand is still very low.
Rainforest Alliance-certified products entered the market place two years ago, but Vigilante predicts that the next two years will be a tremendous period of growth.
“Although we have been going for 17 years, most of these years have been about doing the groundwork and getting the certification programme right.
“Now we can really concentrate on developing our key markets, which are the UK, North America, Europe and Japan.”
Coffee is the only Rainforest Alliance-certified product sold in the UK so far. Suppliers Kraft Foods and Gala Coffee and Tea are involved with the alliance, and Vigilante is now keen to work with Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury to develop the brand. A European office is opening in July to extend distribution.
“A lot of folk compare us to Fairtrade because it’s so well known and they have done a great job developing the mark,” says Vigilante. “But we are very different.
Fairtrade may guarantee a fixed price to producer groups, but the money goes to the co-operative.
“The Rainforest Alliance works primarily with farmers directly to help them implement consistently high farming practices and meet demanding social and environmental standards.”
The alliance says it works with farmers in 58 countries. It claims that more than 15% of all bananas in international trade come from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms and that 45,000 coffee workers’ families are benefiting directly from certification.
Ikea is now stocking more Alliance-certified furniture, while companies involved in tourism are also getting involved with the Alliance, which aims to create a sustainable way of life that benefits everyone and the environment they live in.