The Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network Plans for Improving Assessments of Worker Protection

Publication date: 01/09/2014



In recent months the Rainforest Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) have received feedback from stakeholders that has compelled us to identify how we can improve our audit procedures and the SAN standards used to assess worker protection. The Rainforest Alliance, like every organization that uses certification as a tool to improve the safety and well-being of workers, deals with the complexities involved in trying to ensure workers are protected at all times. Our procedures are designed to minimize the possibility that SAN standards are compromised, and we have in place systems of reporting and redress. We recognize, however, that these procedures are not a guarantee that incidents will not occur.

To strengthen our auditing procedures, we are working with our certification team and outside experts and are reviewing our audit team requirements, auditor qualifications and training programs. We have identified the following areas that we aim to improve:


  • Finite resources are available to devote to the investigation audits we do after allegations of non conformance. For that reason, we will also focus on how we can better flag possible problems during all our audits and report these to farm owners and managers, so that they can then investigate more intensively.
  • While auditors receive extensive training, including training on how to evaluate human-rights and social issues, we will aim to provide more detailed guidance and tools, with input from outside experts.
  • Details on requirements for human-rights protection and sexual harassment avoidance will be specifically addressed in the SAN standards and guidance documents.

The Rainforest Alliance and SAN have launched an overall strategy to improve our procedures related to human rights. This includes:


  • Creating a human rights committee to help review and test procedures and stay engaged to assure continual improvement.
  • Launching investigations on human rights compliance using new evaluation methodologies across a sample of Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, then integrating the practices that prove most effective into all audits.
  • Reviewing these findings to determine how the SAN standards with respect to workers might be improved.
  • Meeting regularly with leading worker- and human-rights organizations that can advise us how we can best assess conformance with human-rights standards; investigate allegations of non-conformances; correct and prevent non-conformances; and determine where risks of non-conformances are highest.
  • Inviting experts from worker- and human-rights organizations to be a part of, or observers on, farm audit teams.
  • Extending what we learn to other sectors in which the Rainforest Alliance works and sharing our learnings with colleagues.
  • Posting updates on this strategy on our website.

Integral to this plan is continuing to learn from NGOs, collaborating companies and other organizations that have the expertise to assist us and also face similar challenges in their own efforts to address these issues.

We are confident the vast majority of farmers who work with us are proud, caring land stewards who have made serious commitments to sustainability. Many of these farmers have completely changed the way they grow their crops, knowing that the consumers on whom they depend for their livelihoods want products that meet the rigorous SAN standards.

The Rainforest Alliance and SAN believe that certification plays a principle role in bringing together consumers and the people who provide the goods they purchase in a fight for equality, justice and a sustainable environment. We are committed to adjusting our auditing systems where needed so we can identify problems quickly and to working with industry, human-rights groups and other stakeholders to bring sector-wide attention to these issues.

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