Rainfall Alliance Honors Leaders

What do chocolate chip cookies, kid's toys, lipstick, guitars and hamburgers have in common? They all use natural materials like wood and beef, they all use packaging, and they all work with the Rainforest Alliance to reduce supply chain risk and increase efficiency.

On May 7th, the Rainforest Alliance held their Annual Spring Gala, to recognize global leaders who are reshaping their businesses. For those involved in agriculture, the future for many foodstuffs -- chocolate, vanilla, tea, coffee, bananas -- is in jeopardy. While climate change plays a role -- changing weather affects crops -- a potentially larger problem is that new practices are needed to ensure pricing stability or the next generation won't be willing to stay on the farm to plant and harvest the crops. The Rainforest Alliance provides the technical assistance that is helping companies train farmers in agricultural processes that are more sustainable by the farmer, and can lead to a standard of living that their children could find attractive.

Another very important role the organization plays is in helping companies use wood products that are FSC(Forest Stewardship Council) Certified. This means identifying suppliers, helping the company and their stakeholders see the advantages, and then implementing programs that track packaging, often throughout a complex global supply chain.


Gala honorees and co-chairs gathered on May 7 with business leaders and Rainforest Alliance staff representatives for a day-long workshop to discuss ways in which certification, sustainability and mindful consumption are shaping various industries. The following are the honorees.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Paul Polman

CEO, Unilever

During Mr.Polman’s tenure, Unilever’s collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance has expanded significantly.

  • Roughly 50% of the company’s tea now originates on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms.
  • Unilever is working toward sourcing 100% of its raw agricultural materials from sustainable origins (that figure currently stands at 47%).

Unilever is committed to using its global reach to help:

  • Put an end to illegal deforestation.
  • Mitigate the impact of natural refrigerants on the global climate.
  • Improve food security and sanitation.
  • Combat unemployment.
  • Defend the rights of women and children.

Sustainable Standard-Setters

C.F. Martin & Co., Inc.

Family-owned and operated since 1833, Gregory Paul, the CTO, noted in the Rainforest Alliance workshop, "It's selfish. We want there always to be material to make quality guitars."

  • Martin Guitar achieved Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain-of-custody certification from the Rainforest Alliance in 1997 and again in 2007.
  • In 2009, the company became one of the first guitar manufacturers in the industry to produce an acoustic guitar model comprised entirely of FSC-certified woods.

Livia Firth,
Eco-Age Ltd.

Livia Firth has revolutionized eco-friendly fashion by pairing A-list celebrities with environmentally responsible fashion from the world’s top designers. The Green Carpet Challenge® (GCC) has spotlighted responsible fashion while addressing industry-wide issues such as sourcing and waste.

  • Chopard partnered with The Alliance for Responsible Mining to source Fairmined gold for an exclusive Green Carpet Jewellery Collection.
  • Gucci produced the first-ever zero deforestation certified leather item, with a GCC® brand, from leather sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified ranches in the Brazilian Amazon.

Grupo JD

Brazilian agricultural conglomerate Grupo JD made history in 2012 when the ranches that comprise its cattle operation became the first in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable cattle production. Arnaldo Eijsink, CEO at Grupo JD, said, "Our philosophy is to be a different kind of grower. For us, the welfare of the animals is the starting point." As he put it, cattle raising is a matter of 'converting grass to beef'. Ironically, as their production has doubled, so has demand for their product -- in spite of a higher price point. As a result, the company does not export outside of Brazil, and Mr. Eijsink did not mention any plans to change in the near future.

  • About 60,000 cattle graze on sustainably managed pastures over 79,000 acres.
  • The animals are well-treated and fed a natural diet that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The company promotes worker health and well being by providing training and education to ranchers and their families.
  • The company has a 32,000-acre reserve in the Amazon which helps to buffer natural forests and provide shelter and migratory habitat for wildlife.
  • Grupo JD also maintains Rainforest Alliance Certified vineyards in eastern Brazil.


Mattel collaborated with the Rainforest Alliance to:

  • Develop its Sustainable Sourcing Principles and establish a goal of using 85% recycled and sustainably-sourced paper and wood fiber in its packaging.
  • Expand the use of post-consumer recycled content
  • Avoid controversial fiber sources and increase the amount of certified fiber in its portfolio.
  • Leverage the Rainforest Alliance’s tool to
    • Better understand sourcing risks.
    • Increase the transparency and traceability of its supply chain.

Alex Sylvester, Senior Sustainability Engineer at Mattel, noted that understanding the Mattel supply chain -- which includes raw materials, production, packaging and transportation -- was the first challenge. Mattel is supporting schools in China near their manufacturing centers, and have seen kids now educating their parents on sustainability.

McLeod Russel India Limited

Thanks to its 87,000 employees in India, Vietnam, Uganda and Rwanda, McLeod Russel is the world’s largest private sector tea plantation company.

  • Produces 253 million pounds of tea.
  • Across 63 estates and 62 factories.

Committed to worker's quality of life, they work with small farms in Rwanda and Uganda, as well as large ones in India that have a more robust infrastructure. Helping farmers with little to no education understand the benefits of sustainable farming can be very challenging. Rajeef Takru, Director of Plantations, said, "These are the same people who learned to grow tea by clearing the forests. When we talk about sustainable issues, they just don't believe us." But climate change, which is creating problems for farmers, is shifting opinions. "Belief is what they earn," he said. Their efforts have achieved important milestones.

  • 2009 Rainforest certification on 10 of its estates;
  • 2010 four more certified
  • 2013 20 more in India
    • 5 in Uganda
    • 3 in Vietnam
    • 1 in Rwanda

Their long term goal is to achieve certification on all of its plantations through the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) guidelines.

Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd.

Morinaga Milk is a 97 year old producer of dairy products and other food and beverages in Japan. When looking to expand production, they turned to the Rainforest Alliance to find farms that:

  • Grow high-quality coffee beans.
  • Prioritize environmental sustainability.
  • Have a track-record of concern for the welfare of its employees.

Daterra Coffee, a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm in Brazil’s Cerrado, met the requirements. The Cerrado is a large tropical savanna eco-region of Brazil that is home to a variety of wildlife, including jaguars, owls, giant anteaters and macaws. Daterra has found ways to growing coffee while protecting the wildlife, and Moriaga has a new supplier that meets their high standards.

Nell Newman,
Newman's Own

Nell Newman co-founded Newman’s Own Organics to help offset the negative impacts of industrial agriculture on communities, wildlife and the global environment. Ms. Newman said at the Rainforest Alliance workshop, "We sit on a shelf with a lot of products that are not organic, but may have a label that is misleading, such as 'bird friendly'". The Rainforest Certification gives Ms. Newman a standard by which to evaluate suppliers that meet her standards, while supporting local farmers. For Ms. Newman, who inspects her suppliers in person, the poverty of many farmers is a cause she is dedicated to fighting. "A more sustainable approach means that the economics must work," she said. The company achievements include:

  • All of the cocoa in its Signature Series of chocolate bars comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.
  • The company has set up a bonus programs for its cocoa farmers, designed to help produce environmentally friendly, high-quality products for the farmer's families as well as Newman's Own customers.
  • Newman’s Own Organics pays a royalty to the Newman’ Own Foundation.
  • In 2010 Newman established her own foundation dedicated to the environment and a sustainable future.

Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association

The Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre [sic] Producers Association (NSLFFPA) began around a vision of better prices for woodlot owners, but expanded to make Nova Scotia the greenest constituency in North America.

  • More than 230 of its members are FSC certified
  • 64,247 acres of forest land have been of certified.
  • Planting late successional species that are regionally appropriate has made forests more climate resilient.
  • The alliance educates woodlot owners about what they can do to improve the resilience and future quality of woodlots.

Kinglsey Brown, President of the Association, said, "A cord started at $8 and is now up to $128. Now owners can see that their land and trees have value, so it is simple to introduce certification." The program has been so successful, the Canadian government has turned forest management over to NSLFFPA, under a contract. "In 5-7 years we will have the greenest constituency!"


A beauty company, Oriflame is selling products in more than 60 countries. Working alongside the Rainforest Alliance, Oriflame developed a new policy governing its wood-based products use in 2010.

  • Tracked paper consumption and devised a sustainable paper sourcing strategy that has lead to:
    • 96% FSC-certified and/or recycled for the 10 million cataloges sent each week.
    • 94% FSC-certified and/or recycled in shipping boxes and paper-based accessories.


Sabre and its companies--including Travelocity--have helped the travel industry soar to new sustainable heights.

  • Works to provide travelers and travel suppliers with programs and tools that lead to responsible choices and to promote sustainable travel.
  • Their Eco-Certified Hotel Program, developed in consultation with the Rainforest Alliance, provides travelers with an easy way to find and book eco-certified accommodations .
  • Eco-certified hotels are available across all Sabre platforms and include over 8,000 hotels in North and Latin America.

Leilani Latimer, Head of Marketing at Sabre, said, "We're a technology provider. We wanted to put a product in the marketplace, but it had to have a standard." Their green hotels are now requested by 51% of event planners. 70% of business travelers prefer a 'Green Hotel" when available. "It's not on the consumer to seek anymore, it's for the provider to provide."