Taking a new job is a bit like getting married. The commitment is made after months of courtship, during which each party tries hard to impress the other, while learning as much about the other as possible. Then comes the big day. You move in together and start to get a more intimate view of your new partner. It’s only then that you find out whether you’ve made a mistake or a smart gamble.
When I accepted the role of President of the Rainforest Alliance at the beginning of February, I knew that I was joining an organization with a deeply impressive track record, some unusual strengths, and a wonderfully committed group of people. What has truly surprised me, however, is the depth of passion of my new colleagues for the mission of the organization, the range of their skills and knowledge, and their willingness to take risks and explore new dimensions of innovation. I have also been deeply touched by the many heartfelt messages of support from outside the Rainforest Alliance, from former colleagues, partners, and companies with which we work.
This is the first blog I am publishing in my new role, the first of many, and I’d like to share with you some of things that I have quickly come to learn that make this organization so special.
The Rainforest Alliance sits in an unusual place amid the rich and varied constellation of literally thousands of nonprofits working around the world on environmental and social justice issues. It has grown to a significant size, while remaining committed to a focused strategy of using market forces to signal through supply chains to companies, farmers, foresters, tourism businesses, and communities around the world that they can be rewarded for being good stewards of the land and for treating well the people who work on that land. The organization has trained more than 1.3 million people in sustainable land management methods and has a footprint of over 115 million acres. Our new five-year strategic plan, which we’ll be making public soon, aims to greatly expand and amplify this impact by working with more partners around some highly focused new initiatives.
Over the years, the organization has developed deep expertise along every step of the value chain, from farms and forests and tourism businesses to end consumers. Our team includes hundreds of trainers and auditors who work with farmers and foresters—smallholders and global enterprises alike—helping them improve their stewardship of the land to ensure long-term, sustainable production while also improving local livelihoods. And our market transformation team works to enable companies and retailers to show customers their commitment to sustainability—through our trustmark, which is built upon robust, scientifically supported impacts. The growing global demand for responsibly produced goods and services is telegraphed via market signals back along the supply chain to producers on the ground.
Ensuring integrity and high, yet practical and attainable, standards is another core strength of the Rainforest Alliance. We are deeply engaged as partners in the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), and we played a key role in the creation of both. Through the ISEAL global alliance for sustainability standards, we also work to improve the quality of these and many other certification systems. The Rainforest Alliance remains deeply engaged with the FSC, the SAN, ISEAL, and other certification organizations because maintaining their integrity is fundamental to our own credibility and continued success.
Strong forests and healthy communities are what the Rainforest Alliance is all about, and I am honored to be leading such an impressive organization. The marriage we have committed to is far richer than I imagined it would be, and I look forward to sharing many more thoughts with you all in the months ahead. Thank you all for your support, for following our stories on social media, and for being part of an unstoppable global movement for more responsible consumption, environmental sustainability, and social justice.