An investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that some workers at tea estates certified by Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade in Sri Lanka suffer from illegal wage deductions and take home as little as 14 U.S. cents a day. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade said they were investigating as deducting wages without workers' consent was not allowed by law and contravened their standards. Unilever said it was "deeply concerned" and would investigate. Major tea company Tetley, owned by India's Tata Global Beverages, said it was in touch with the Rainforest Alliance regarding the findings.
In January, Rainforest Alliance announced it had hired Nigel Sizer as its new President, who previously headed up World Resources Institute's Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring platform. Given that background, it is unsurprising that Sizer is embracing technology in his new leadership role at Rainforest Alliance. In an International Forest Day interview with Mongabay, Sizer said that technology like Global Forest Watch will boost the effectiveness of certification.
A report on the activities of the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP) in Guatemala show the positive potential impact of community based forest management. The members of ACOFOP include small furniture manufacturers sell products approved by the Rainforest Alliance.
The article refers to a report published last month by the World Resources Institute which investigated both the Guatemalan concessions and a similar model found in Brazil’s indigenous communities in the Amazon. The WRI estimated that Guatemala stood to benefit up to $800 million over the next two decades through community management of forest concessions.
Rainforest Alliance has extended the suspension period of the Resolute Forest Products certificate for PF Résolu Canada Inc. in Lac St-Jean Quebec by one year. The extended suspension will provide additional time to Resolute to resolve its’ past discrepancies. For the certificate to be re-instated, Resolute must continuously conform to the FSC criteria and their current outstanding non-conformities must be audited as closed. If these terms are not met by the end of the suspension period, Rainforest Alliance will terminate FSC’s certificate agreement for Lac St-Jean Quebec.
The think tank Innovation Forum held a two-day conference in Washington DC entitled “How business can tackle deforestation” attended by 160 representatives from companies, NGOs and investors. Whilst multiple major consumer goods companies have declared their commitments to achieving zero deforestation in their supply chains many others have raised concerns over the term and what the policy actually means in practice.
Rainforest Alliances’ recent position paper, ‘Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability’ warned that zero deforestation commitments may not be enough to protect the world’s forests, due to two reasons. Firstly, though many major companies have signed up for these commitments, many other producers and buyers will not. These companies will continue to rely on deforestation to produce their goods, unless a way is found to address underlying issues, such as growing worldwide demand for forest products. Secondly, focusing solely on deforestation risks drawing attention away from other business practices within the commodities supply chain which may deserve equally urgent attention e.g. water scarcity and labour laws. In addition, the use of ‘zero deforestation’ as a catchphrase is problematic because there remains no clear agreement over what the term means. Rainforest Alliance emphasises the need for greater education, auditing and transparency so that consumers know the impact of what they are buying and are able to trust companies’ sustainability claims. Though a commendable step in the right direction, ‘zero deforestation’ commitments need to be backed up with comprehensive action plans if they are to deliver credible results.
The Rainforest Alliance has agreed to conduct an audit of Asia Pulp and Paper’s progress in implementing the the zero deforestation policy the forest giant signed last year. The organisation will evaluate APP’s progress in meeting four commitments in its forest conservation policy including protecting high conservation value areas and high carbon stock forests, managing peatlands to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and obtaining free, prior informed consent from local communities before developing new plantations.