While researching chocolate, I learned about Rainforest Alliance Certified™ products and was introduced to the terms Bird Friendly® and shade-grown. We’ll wrap up this third of three chocolate posts with birds and trees.
The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center created the Bird Friendly® seal of approval to encourage conservation of bird habitat via production of shade-grown, organic coffee. Besides being beautiful and often melodic members of the planet, birds provide “ecosystem services” such as eating insect pests, spreading seeds and pollinating crops. Although Bird Friendly® is specific to coffee (at this point), shade-grown has a wide application, including growing cacao.
Growing cacao trees beneath native canopy trees enhances environmental sustainability by protecting water and soil, retaining habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife, and providing other products for farmers.
Leaf litter under tree canopies helps the soil retain moisture and fertility, and provides habit for insects that pollinate cacao trees.
Birds and other animals help keep insect pest populations down, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides which are harmful to wildlife and people.
Growing cacao along with other crops such as avocado, pineapple, coffee, papaya, and bananas can increase biodiversity which helps fight off pests and plant diseases and provides additional income for farmers.
The Rainforest Alliance mission and strategy can best be described in their own words.
Mission: “The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.”
Strategy: “We believe that the best way to keep forests standing is by ensuring that it is profitable for businesses and communities to do so.”
I especially like the strategy as expecting businesses to “do the right thing” is unrealistic. It is far better to help businesses understand the impact of their actions and how they can make or save money by implementing planet and people friendly practices.
Products from farms that adhere to standards set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) may earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal of approval.
Sustainable Agriculture Network
The Sustainable Agriculture Network standards are based upon 10 guiding principles.
- Management System – social and environmental management systems are required to ensure compliance with SAN standards and laws of respective countries.
- Ecosystem Conservation – protect waterways, prohibit deforestation, and prevent negative impacts on natural areas outside farmlands.
- Wildlife Protection – monitor and protect wildlife on farms, especially endangered species.
- Water Conservation – reduce water consumption, avoid contaminating water sources, and treat wastewater appropriately.
- Working Conditions – ensure good working conditions in line with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.
- Occupational Health – health and safety programs to reduce accidents, ensure machinery and equipment is in safe and good working order, and provide training in the proper handling of agrochemicals.
- Community Relations – consult with communities and local interest groups regarding farm impacts, and contribute to local development via employment, training, and public works.
- Integrated Crop Management – minimize or eliminate pesticides and other agrochemicals; if used protect the health of people and the environment.
- Soil Conservation – prevent erosion, enrich soil with organic matter, and reduce agrochemical use.
- Integrated Waste Management – reduce, recycle, reuse, and dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner.
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Chocolate
The Rainforest Alliance website provides a handy tool called “Shop the Frog” for finding Rainforest Alliance Certified™ products. By selecting United States, California, Food & Beverages, and Chocolate from the drop down menus I received a list of brands as well as brick and mortar and online stores selling Rainforest Alliance Certified™ chocolate.
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and Fair Trade certified chocolate standards have many elements in common. This provides shoppers with a lot of chocolate choices from companies that are both eco-friendly and ethical. Enjoy.
- Rainforest Alliance – Certification
- Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center – Bird Friendly®
- Sustainable Agriculture Network