Rainforest Alliance Celebrates Conservation Leadership Through Innovative Partnerships

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In its 31st year, the Rainforest Alliance celebrates the organizations, companies, farmers, foresters, and individuals who are working hard to make sustainability the new norm.

“The kind of transformational, global work the Rainforest Alliance undertakes would not be possible without the partnerships we have established with forward-thinking, progressive companies.”

For more than three decades, the Rainforest Alliance has been a leader in the global effort to transform agricultural and forestry supply chains, motivated by the need to stop deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and create a more sustainable future. Now in its thirty-first year, the Rainforest Alliance is pleased to recognize and celebrate the partnerships that have made its legacy of past success possible: the farmers, forest communities, governments, scientists, fellow NGOs, and companies large and small. This year, the Rainforest Alliance also celebrates its recent international merger with UTZ, another global leader in sustainable agriculture, based in the Netherlands.

On May 9th, the Rainforest Alliance will honor these partnerships with a series of awards at its 31st Spring Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“The kind of transformational, global work the Rainforest Alliance undertakes would not be possible without the partnerships we have established with forward-thinking, progressive companies,” said Han de Groot, CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. “The individuals, communities, and businesses we have highlighted are diving significant change for the related challenges of climate change, rural poverty, and biodiversity loss. Their work has resulted in real changes on the ground, and is helping to improve conditions for farmers and forest communities.”

During the day on May 9, honorees will join farming community leaders, business leaders, CEOs, and Rainforest Alliance experts at the annual Leadership Summit to discuss challenges and successes in implementing global sustainability and climate goals. Following the summit, participants will gather in the evening for an awards dinner, entertainment, and a silent auction.

Honorary co-chairs for the 2018 Annual Gala are Hilaria and Alec Baldwin. The gala is co-chaired by Rainforest Alliance board members Wendy Gordon and Larry Rockefeller; Maggie Lear and Daniel Katz; Peter Lehner and Fritz Beshar; Juan Esteban Orduz; and Kerri and Drew Smith. The gala is sponsored by Domtar, Nespresso, and Lavazza. Gala proceeds benefit the Rainforest Alliance’s comprehensive, international conservation initiatives.

2018 Community Leadership Award

The Cocoa Farmers of Juabeso-Bia in Ghana
Demonstrating the maxim that there is strength in numbers, the cocoa farmers of the Juabeso and Bia districts in Western Ghana have harnessed that strength by coming together to transform an entire landscape. The members of 34 communities, covering 29 thousand hectares, established a landscape management board to oversee the planning, implementation, and monitoring of sustainable practices on their cocoa farms, and the impacts have been nothing short of remarkable.

Elija Owusu-Cashierkrom, a village elder and cocoa farmer from the region, will accept the award on behalf of the cocoa producers. Elija began working with the Rainforest Alliance six years ago, and his farm has been certified since 2011. Since that time, he has become very conscious of environmental issues, implementing erosion-control measures on his own farm to protect streams, planting trees on fallow land and working actively to increase carbon stocks and build resiliency to climate change.

The Sustainable Standard-Setters

The Sustainable Standard-Setters award recognizes companies who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to sustainability, improving livelihoods, and conserving forests all around the world.

The Original Bradford Soap Works Company, Inc.
Rhode Island-based Bradford Soap Works is one of the world’s oldest and largest specialty soap manufacturer, and one of the first companies to commit to using 100 percent traceable palm oil. Bradford was the first soap manufacturer to be Certified Organic and the first personal care products manufacturer to offer soap bases using palm oil from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.

Colombian Coffee Growers Federation
Described as possibly the largest rural NGO in the world, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation has been working since the 1920s to improve the quality of life for more than 540,000 coffee-growing families. As a staunch advocate for rural communities, sustainably grown coffee, and climate change adaptation, the Colombian Coffee Federation stands behind the sustainable agriculture methods of Rainforest Alliance certification. In fact, many of the farmers represented by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification for their farms.

Volcafe/Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd.
Uganda’s coffee is grown by more than one million smallholder farmers and is often their most important source of income—but Ugandan coffee yields are among the lowest in the world. Kyagalanyi Coffee, part of the Volcafe group, has been working closely with our new colleagues from the UTZ certification program—and with the Rainforest Alliance—to address these issues through sustainable farming methods.

Kyagalanyi works with over 14,500 UTZ and/or RA certified households that produce Arabica coffee. The company has developed a strong farmer support program, which has increased coffee yields and income for these families by 35-45% in West Nile and 60-70% in Mt. Elgon. Key elements include a focus on continuous improvement and a range of innovative approaches to sustainably improve coffee production, work with youth, encourage joint decision making within households and promote the use of mobile money. Additionally, Kyagalanyi is a vocal leader in the effort to reduce child labor on coffee farms in West Nile. As part of the UTZ Sector Partnership program, Kyagalanyi and its partners are expanding this work to identify cost-efficient strategies to work towards the eradication of child labor in the coffee value chain.

For decades, Patagonia has been recognized as a leader in the outdoor apparel industry for its Earth-focused policies. Because of Patagonia’s deep commitment to sustainability—in sourcing, labor, and resource-use policies—it was no surprise when the company transitioned from neoprene, a petroleum-based insulation, to renewable Rainforest Alliance Certified natural rubber in its popular wetsuits. The new wetsuits outperform the neoprene-based ones, creating a win-win for the company and the environment. The Rainforest Alliance was proud to perform the due diligence to make sure the rubber in the wetsuits met all the sustainability criteria defined by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Sustainability Champion Award

The Thomson Reuters Foundation
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, the world’s biggest news and information provider. Their work in shining a light on underreported stories, such as modern slavery, women’s rights, and climate change and resilience is an important contribution to a fair and informed society.

Sustainable Pathfinders Award

The Sustainable Pathfinders Award recognizes companies for the work they are doing to advance sustainable practices across their industries. All meaningful change must begin with action, and we applaud those who are fighting strong headwinds to move in the right direction.

New Britain Palm Oil Ltd.
Irresponsible palm oil production is notoriously destructive to forests and the people who live in them. Sime Darby’s New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. in Papua New Guinea broke from the industry norm to improve livelihood opportunities in the region and restore degraded land. It has adopted a process to consult with indigenous peoples on the principle of free, prior, and informed consent—a right guaranteed by the United Nations that allows indigenous peoples to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories. New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. has incorporated climate change adaptation and mitigation and measures to improve farmer livelihoods into its business plan, and the company is striving to meet the sustainability guidelines in every area where they work.

McDonald’s is one of Forbes’ top ten most valuable global brands, serves 69 million customers a day, and has a global footprint that extends from beef, soy, and coffee to tea and packaging. Despite the complexities of such a massive supply chain, McDonald’s has made several meaningful sustainability commitments over the past few years. For example, McDonald’s has pledged to eliminate deforestation from its entire supply chain by 2030, from the fiber used in the paper and paperboard Happy Meal packaging to the palm oil used in its restaurants and as ingredients in foods like baked goods and sauces. McDonald’s has also pledged to serve 100 percent Rainforest Alliance Certified tea in its U.S. restaurants, and 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee globally both by 2020. In 2016, more than half of McDonald’s sustainably sourced coffee came from Rainforest Alliance Certified or UTZ Certified farms. The global restaurant chain was a founding board member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which is working with beef producers to proactively identify, share and scale the industry’s most sustainable practices McDonald’s is the first restaurant company to set an approved Science Based Target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. McDonald’s is truly changing the conversation on sustainability, using its reach to drive entire industries to change while working to continuously improve its own practices in alliance with multiple stakeholders.

Lifetime Achievement Award

A biologist and journalist by training, Chris Wille has spent decades leading the conservation and sustainability movement around the world, working for wildlife conservation agencies, the EPA, the National Wildlife Federation, and the National Audubon Society before helping to cofound the Rainforest Alliance more than 30 years ago. In 1990, Chris and his wife, Diane Jukofsky, moved to Costa Rica to establish the organization's first field programs, leading an unprecedented, multi-stakeholder process that brought together environmentalists, farmers, scientists, farm workers, business leaders, government officials, and others to develop the first standard for sustainable agriculture. Thanks to his passion, keen intelligence, and unwavering commitment, Chris has helped to transform the way that tropical commodities are grown and sold—reducing their environmental footprint, protecting wildlife and people, and safeguarding the livelihoods of some of our planet’s poorest communities.

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Brittany Wienke
Rainforest Alliance
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