I got a coffee at a service station and the vending machine was making a big deal about it being Rainforest Alliance.
I know what Fairtrade is. It is a certificated programme that ensures than producers receive a fair price for their goods and receive community enhancing projects. It is not beyond being corrupted but it seems to be the best thing we have to ensure producers are not exploited. But what is Rainforest Alliance?
McDonalds and Coffee Nation seem to offer Fairtrade tea and coffee but on closer inspection we see it is not, it is Rainforest Alliance. On their website they say the following:
The Rainforest Alliance is an independent and internationally renowned non-profit organisation and only farms that meet specific standards balancing all aspects of production, including protecting the environment, the rights and welfare of workers and the interest of coffee-growing communities are awarded certification.
So what is the difference between Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance?
Fairtrade is independently assessed and monitored to ensure its high standards. The lower standards of Rainforest Alliance require only 30% of their product to be independently assessed and monitored. Rainforest Alliance also costs less for the big manufacturers as they do not have to pay for use of the logo and there is not a minimum price to pay to growers.
Many people are now not sure there is any difference between the two. I was at Fairtrade meeting and one person claimed that Rainforest Alliance is a non-standard to dupe the unaware. I don’t know enough to know if this is true or not. I do know that the emphasis of Fairtrade is on the people rather that just the environment. When I buy Fairtrade I am doing so because I want justice for the growers and do not want them to be exploited just so I can have a nice coffee or bar of chocolate.
I have just been into the kitchen of our church and found a jar of Kenko coffee. I looked to see if it was Fairtrade. It was not, it was Rainforest Alliance. I wonder if the buyer knew the difference.