Buying a bag of coffee stamped ‘Rainforest Alliance Certified’ assures us that we’re doing something good for the environment. This is just one of a growing number of eco-certification schemes -driven by market demand – that set independent criteria for environmentally and socially sustainable production of crops.Farmers can receive premium prices for their produce if they meet standards designed, for example, to avoid deforestation, conserve soil quality or treat workers fairly. Many of the world’s most important export commodities are grown in the tropics, where there are also high levels of biodiversity and poverty.

A group of CCI partners is working in association with the Rainforest Alliance to investigate whether the location of farms who currently produce certified commodities is optimal for improving impacts on biodiversity, and reducing deforestation and poverty. Their aim is to identify priority regions for enhancing positive outcomes, and to investigate ways to make the targeting of eco-certification more strategic.

The work has attracted interest from the biggest coffee company in the world. Starbucks has its own sustainability standard and is working with the team to see where its verified farms are in relation to areas of high biodiversity and deforestation. The results will help the company identify risks and opportunities in its supply chain, and potentially target training for farmers. Although there has been a huge rise in eco-certification, farms encompassed by these schemes account for only one percent of global crop land. But if targeted in the right places, enforcement of these important standards could make a big difference both to biodiversity and to the people growing these crops.

We want to know whether certification is in places where it is most needed. For example, are schemes that protect biodiversity being taken up in places with threatened species and habitats? Then we can show where further certification should be targeted to increase the impact, and look at how to make this happen.” – Cath Tayleur, Conservation Scientist, RSPB and University of Cambridge (Department of Zoology)

More details and resources linked to the project funded by CCI’s Collaborative Fund are at: