To our readers:
This manual explains the processes and
requirements of Rainforest Alliance
Certified™. It is meant for those of you
interested in becoming certified for the
first time, as well as those who are
already enjoying the benefits of our
Table of Contents
1. Who are we? 8. Certified client rights
2. Auditing services
9. Responsibilities of SAAS
3. The audit process 10. Cancelation of
4. Certification cycle certification
5. Evaluation system 11. Conditions for use of the
certification 12. Benchmarking with 4C
13. Philosophy of continuous
7. Responsibilities of
the client improvement
1. Who are we?
Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a
coalition of independent non-profit conservation
organizations that promote the social and
environmental sustainability of agricultural
activities by developing standards. SAN fosters
best practices for the agricultural value chain,
provides incentives to producers to comply with
the standards and encourages traders and
consumers to protect sustainability.
SAN is the owner of the “Sustainable
Who are we?
Rainforest Alliance (Alianza para Bosques)
The Rainforest Alliance is an international NGO that works to
conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods via
the transformation of land use practices, business practices
and consumer behaviour.
Rainforest Alliance is the owner of the “Rainforest
Alliance Certified™” seal
Who are we?
Sustainable Agriculture Audit Services (SAAS)
SAAS is the unit in Rainforest Alliance’s
Sustainable Agriculture program that organizes
audits in countries that do not have SAN partners
yet. SAAS is an inspection body.
SAAS works according to the missions
of the SAN and the Rainforest Alliance
Who are we?
Sustainable Farm Certification Intl, Ltda
SFC is the certification body: it decides whether or
not a producer obtains certification. It is also in
charge of issuing the corresponding
2. Audit services
The audits we conduct are based on:
• Farm Certification Policy (April 2009 version)
• SAN Standards for Sustainable Agriculture (April
• SAN list of Prohibited Pesticides (April 2009
• For audits of farm groups: the Rainforest
Alliance Certification Standards for Groups (Nov.
• Local indicator Guidelines, if applicable 8
The certification covers the farm or the farms of
the group. It includes the installations and all
activities (even those that are not targeted in the
certification). For example: if a coffee farm has
cattle rearing operations, the auditor will inspect
the management of this activity as well.
For groups, there must be an appointed group
administrator in order to be certified.
We invite you to review the requirements in
the Group Standard
3. The auditing process
2) Quotation – Billing
4) Preparation of the audit
5) Execution of the audit
6) Preparation of the report
Step 1: The application
The process begins when the interested party fills out and submits
the application form for the service*. There is a different form for
each type of audit:
Group of farms
Chain of custody
The application is valid for three months from the time SAAS
receives the form and it is required for the preparation of a
quotation (cost proposal).
Before requesting a certification audit, the producer can ask for a
pre-audit to assess the farm’s compliance with the standards. This
is a voluntary process and it is not a requirement when opting for
*The submission of the application form does not obligate the interested 11
party to carry out the process.
Step 2: Quotation and Billing
SAAS will prepare a quotation for the audit service. This proposal is
valid for 30 calendar days. There are two types of costs:
1. Audit: includes auditor honorariums and administrative and logistic
costs. To reduce costs, the producer can provide lodging, transport
and meals for the auditors. The cost of the audit is paid prior to its
2. Annual fee: applies only in the case where the farm is certified.
The annual fee is calculated:
For farms: USD 7.50 per hectare in production
For coffee, cocoa and tea groups: USD 5.00 per hectare in
Once the producer accepts the quotation, s/he is sent the invoice for the cost of
the audit. In the event that the farm/group obtains certification, the
corresponding documents are provided only when the producer has met all the
financial and administrative obligations.
Step 3: Payment
Payment is made via bank transfer using the
• Type of payment (audit, annual quota, etc.)
• Invoice number
• Account Name: Rainforest Alliance
Bank of America, NY
SWIFT Code: BOFAUS3N
The bank voucher should be e-mailed to:
email@example.com or faxed to: (506) 2234-8916, ext.
Step 4: Preparation of the Audit
Once the client approves the quotation, SAAS
will send an Audit Plan that describes the
objectives, scope, logistics, methodology and the
date of the audit. This plan should be approved
by the producer prior to the execution of the
Adjustments to the Audit Plan (for example
logistics, changes in the number of producers,
etc.) should be communicated to and validated
by SAAS and the producer.
Step4: Preparation of the Audit
With the Audit Plan, SAAS will also send a Monitoring
and Evaluation Form that the producer will fill out
and send to Client Services at SAAS.
This document is required for the auditor to prepare
the audit report.
See the next page about “Environmental, social and
economic impact” for more details.
Social and Economic Impact
During the audit preparation process, we will ask for
some specific indicators for the farm.
Rainforest Alliance’s objective is to gather specific data
to measure the environmental, social and economic
impacts of the certification processes and sustainable
management practices. The purpose of this is to aid
continuous improvement, attract key stakeholders and
create a competitive advantage for certified producers.
Social and Economic Impact
The Rainforest Alliance Evaluation & Research team is
responsible for the analysis of the indicators, data
management, report preparation (maintaining the
anonymity of the participants), and the
communication of the results of the investigations
to the interested parties and the general public.
Step 5: Execution of the Audit
The audit is conducted by SAN-approved auditors
and includes the following activities:
review of the documentation
final meeting to communicate preliminary
SAAS is committed to managing and keeping all the information supplied
The producer will make sure that administrative
and field personnel are present and available so
that the audit team may request interviews and
Information and documentation regarding the
socio-environmental management of the farm
shall be made available to the audit team.
Step 6: The audit report
The audit team prepares a report that details the farm or the
group’s conformance with SAN standards and policies.
SAAS can request additional information before presenting
the final audit report, such as a corrective actions plan.
The preliminary report will be sent to the producer for
revision and approval. The delivery of the report normally
takes 3 to 6 weeks after the audit is completed.
The producer has five working days to submit comments on
the audit report. If no comments are received, the report is
considered approved and it is sent to the SFC Certification
Step 7: Certification Decision
The SFC Certification Committee analyzes the audit report and
makes a decision. SFC sends a letter with the decision via
In the event of certification, a Certification Agreement (valid
for 3 years) will be sent for the producer to sign and send back
to SAAS. The client may request a copy of the Certification
Agreement before applying for an audit.
Certification is effective as of the date the Committee makes
the decision. However, products cannot be sold as certified
until the Certification Agreement has been signed and the
producer has met the financial and administrative obligations
of the agreement.
If certification is not awarded, the producer can
make the necessary changes on the farm and
request a new audit.
If the producer feels that certification was
unjustifiably denied, s/he can appeal by using
the corresponding form.
4. Certification Cycle
The certification cycle is 3 years. The types of audits are:
These are conducted to determine the client’s level of
compliance with the standards and applicable criteria. An audit
team carries out this evaluation for the first time when a client
opts for certification and prior to renewal of the certification
agreement every three years.
The annual audit is conducted for the next two years after
certification is obtained. The objective is to verify and monitor
the farm or group’s compliance with SAN regulatory
documents and the execution of corrective actions.
Other types of audits
SAAS can also carry out the following types of
Verification audit: Its objective is to verify whether
a corrective actions plan, presented by a farm or
group in response to non conformities identified in
earlier audits, has been implemented.
Research audit: SAAS plans and conducts this
process in response to a formal complaint by a
third party regarding apparent non-compliance of
a Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farm or group.
Other types of audits
Quality audit: SAAS plans and conducts this process
in coordination with SFC to monitor compliance
with the Certification Agreement and the proper
use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal.
Non-programmed or follow-up audit: SAAS plans
and conducts this process as an action for follow-
up on the good performance of the socio-
environmental management system. The client is
not advised in advance of the process and its
costs are covered by SAAS.
5. Evaluation System
To obtain Rainforest Alliance Certified™ certification a farm
Be evaluated through a certification audit
Comply with the SAN scoring system and compliance
Sign the Certification Agreement
Pay for the cost of certification and annual fee
The Scoring System at the farm level includes:
Compliance with at least 80% of all the applicable criteria
Compliance with at least 50% of the criteria for each
Not having nonconformities with critical criteria
The Farm Certification Policy document should be consulted
for details of the current requirements.
The Scoring System used by SAN defines findings as
different types of nonconformities with the criteria
• Major nonconformity (MNC): indicates compliance
for a criterion between 0% and 49%.
• Minor nonconformity (mnc): indicates compliance
for a criterion between 50% and 99%.
• A critical criterion is one that requires full
compliance for the farm to be certified or to
maintain its certification.
6. Maintaining certification
This is achieved through verification in the
annual audits and continuous improvement in
the non-conformities detected.
The producer must make sure that annual
audits are carried out at least one month
before the expiration date of the certificate.
Not executing the annual audits on time leads
to cancellation of the certification.
Awarded certifications are not given extensions except
when a situation outside of our control (force majeure)
occurs that impedes the realization of the audit (e.g. a
natural disaster, labor strike). In this case the producer
should request an extension from SAAS, which will then
send the request to the Certification Committee.
The certification cannot be transferred to another farm or
The farm or group maintains the certification in case
there is a change of owner.
7. Responsibilities of the Producer
In the audit and certification process, the producer has the
Become familiar with this manual, the SAN standards that
apply to the farm or group of farms and the policies in effect.
Comply with the financial obligations of the agreement for
the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ audit and certification
State and communicate to SAAS any change in the farm
information, the scope of the certification or modifications
that affect compliance with the standards.
Responsibilities of the Producer
Notify SAAS in writing within 10 days of any claim,
complaint, lawsuit, or legal case that questions the
good performance of the socio-environmental
Comply with the requirements for the use of the
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, which must be
approved by SFC.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (506) 2234-8916.
8. Rights of the Certified Client
Once a farm has satisfactorily concluded the audit and
certification process, it merits the following privileges:
Its products will be recognized by the market as
differentiated due to its good socio-environmental
performance and responsibility.
Use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal in all its
promotion and commercialization activities for products
from the certified farm or group of farms.
Seal use must be approved in advance by the SFC.
Rights of the Certified Client
Receive up-to-date information about changes made to the
SAN standards and the audit and certification process.
Participate in workshops and training sessions for
enrichment, feedback and public consultation offered by
SAAS, the Rainforest Alliance and the SAN Secretariat.
Can submit complaints or claims regarding the service
Use our online portal Market Place to communicate about
the certified products.
9. Responsibilities of SAAS
To support producers of certified farms, the SAAS team has the
Provide the certified client with up-to-date information and
material about changes made to the SAN standards and
policies and the audit and certification process.
Expand recognition of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal in
Create opportunities for analysis and discussion to update and
gain feedback on topics related to the SAN standards and the
audit and certification process.
Establish mechanisms that ensure objectivity and
transparency in the audit process.
10. Cancellation of Certification
Certification is cancelled*:
On the expiration date of the certificate if a new audit has
not been executed.
If the client requests cancellation voluntarily.
When there is objective evidence of non-compliance with
the terms of the Certification Agreement, made known to
SAAS via a formal complaint from a third party. The
evidence is validated in a Research Audit.
If there is improper use of the seal (fraud, deceit, or
wrongful representation of the certification status of the
farm or its products).
When the farm or group of farms do not comply with the
requirements established in the Farm Certification Policy.
*Cancellation of Rainforest Alliance Certified™ certification is the exclusive
responsibility of the certification body: Sustainable Farm Certification (SFC)
11. Conditions for
Use of the Seal
The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ certification seal is a
registered trademark of the Rainforest Alliance.
The user cannot use, adopt, register or intend to register
the certification seal.
The producer can request the requirements for use of the
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal at email@example.com *
* Approval for the use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is the
responsibility of the certification body SFC 36
12. Benchmarking with 4C
To reduce the burden for coffee producers the Rainforest Alliance
and the 4C Association have entered into collaboration through a
Benchmarking means evaluating the equivalence of two standards
and systems, and this first benchmarking in the coffee market has
resulted in full equivalence. Since the 4C Code of Conduct is a
baseline, the benchmarking with the SAN standards is not
This means that producers that are Rainforest Alliance Certified
may apply for a 4C License without additional costs.
For the details, please visit:
13. Philosophy of Continuous
At SAAS we are committed to continuous
improvement of the audit process for sustainable
We use internal evaluation tools and promote
feedback through suggestions from producers, which
allow us to gauge our performance and analyze and
identify opportunities for improvement.