Rainforest Alliance

New York City

Nov 2, 2011
Outside Magazine
Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance certified coffee farm in Vietnam.    Photo: Courtesy of Rainforest Alliance

BY THE NUMBERS: More than 167 million acres of forests worldwide are now rated as sustainable under Rainforest Alliance’s certification system
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Tensie Whelan, 51, a former journalist and consultant who has worked with the National Audubon Society and the League of Conservation Voters
WHAT IT DOES: Established during the rainforest crisis of the 1980s, 25-year-old Rainforest Alliance aims to preserve the biodiversity of forests worldwide by creating conservation-friendly livelihoods for locals. Its programs center on sustainability-certification labels for forestry, tourism, and agricultural businesses, which can just as easily be forces for conservation as for devastation. Certification guidelines and training programs help farmers, foresters, lodges, and tour guides build sustainable businesses. The labels are also designed to encourage consumers to purchase conscientiously. (Companies like Newman’s Own Organics, Naked Juice, and Whole Foods buy Rainforest ­Alliance–certified ­coffee, cocoa, bananas, and tea.) The organization offers a free grade-school curriculum—downloaded and viewed online eight million times since 2003—to teach kids about the animals and people living in the rainforest.
EXTRA CREDIT: The demand for sustainable goods has never been higher, and Rainforest ­Alliance–certified products sell to companies with major impact, like Dole and Wal-Mart.
LOOKING AHEAD: In 2007, Rainforest Alliance launched a climate-change program, which helps farmers reforest unused lands, and recently raised its standards for sustainable beef production.