The combined organisation will provide credible sustainability certification services at a global scale, engage with wide and diverse stakeholders, and productively contribute to the development of numerous certification schemes.
Copenhagen, New York (09 February 2018) – After two decades of close partnership, NEPCon and RA-Cert (the certification division of the Rainforest Alliance), the world’s two leading non-profit certification bodies, have announced their intention to join later this year. The transaction is subject to agreement on final terms, which the parties expect to finalise later this year.
The combined organisation, which will operate under the name of NEPCon, will continue to offer services that both NEPCon and RA-Cert have been delivering in forestry, agriculture, responsible sourcing, biomass, carbon footprinting, and tourism.
“NEPCon and RA-Cert share similar values, including a commitment to credibility at the heart of our services. We already have closely aligned management structures, systems and working procedures, as well as long-standing trust across the two organisations. RA-Cert complements our existing capacities and geographical areas, and we are excited to have the RA-Cert team join NEPCon," said Peter Feilberg, Executive Director of NEPCon.
The RA-Cert/NEPCon union will have over 200 staff and a wide network of consultants working worldwide, delivering services on six continents. "The current RA-Cert and NEPCon geographies and services are complementary to each other, and together will drive greater reach and impact,” said Feilberg.
Independence in Certification
The transition of RA-Cert was predicated on two significant changes undertaken by the Rainforest Alliance. In late 2017 the Rainforest Alliance took over management of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Sustainable Agriculture Standard for Rainforest Alliance Certification, and the certification programme, and, separately, in January 2018 the Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ, a leading agricultural certification scheme based in Amsterdam. These changes have positioned the new Rainforest Alliance as an agriculture certification scheme owner, and for this reason, the Rainforest Alliance sought to make its in-house certification body, RA-Cert, independent.
Various options were explored to enhance RA-Cert’s independence, and it was determined the most successful outcome would come through joining with NEPCon. This will enable RA-Cert to preserve continuity of services from its same expert staff, auditors, and partners established around the globe.
“Since pioneering the concept of sustainable forestry certification in 1989, the RA-Cert programme has played a critical role in innovating third-party certification, and the Rainforest Alliance has chosen the best path forward for both RA-Cert and our valued clients," said Laura Terrall, Director of RA-Cert. "In joining with NEPCon, we look forward to meeting new service needs, such as adding new programmes that allow audit bundling, and keeping an eye towards innovative solutions across our certification and assurance activities. RA-Cert is pleased to make this transition with NEPCon, which serves our shared mission to support sustainability on a local and global scale.”
Our Shared Mission and Commitment
NEPCon and Rainforest Alliance have been close collaborators since 1998, initially working together on FSCTM (Forest Stewardship CouncilTM) certification and expanding to other services, including agriculture certification. Based on this decades-long partnership, the NEPCon and RA-Cert approach to certification management has followed very similar guiding principles. This means clients can expect a seamless transition, with the familiarity of the service model they have come to know, and the high credibility they have come to trust.
“RA-Cert and NEPCon share a long and fruitful history of over 20 years, from NEPCon’s beginning," said Richard Donovan, the Rainforest Alliance Senior Vice President and President of Forestry. "As an organisation with a mission-oriented certification programme, NEPCon is an ideal choice and we are confident the union with NEPCon will deliver benefits for companies and stakeholders, as well as certification and assurance systems, through continued innovation around engagement of smallholders, services which constantly focus on sustainable communities and land use, and tackling deforestation.”
Credible services delivered worldwide
The union will create expanded reach and scale that will enable NEPCon to better drive impact and reach its mission. The organisation will be well-equipped to provide services to large international corporations with global supply chains in agricultural and forest products, as well as engage more with smallholders and community enterprises that are important drivers of impact on the ground.
“RA-Cert has played a key role in driving the Rainforest Alliance's vision of a world where nature is protected and biodiversity flourishes; where farmers, workers, and communities prosper; and where responsible land use and business practices are the norm," said Rainforest Alliance Chief Executive Officer, Han de Groot. "The acquisition of the RA-Cert programme by NEPCon is the right solution to maintain the credibility and independence of the RA-Cert certification and auditing services. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with NEPCon in a variety of areas in the future.”
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For further information, please contact:
- Peter Feilberg, Executive Director, NEPCon, firstname.lastname@example.org, +45 40360866
- Adam Grant, International Business Development Director, NEPCon email@example.com, +44 7490868989
- Brittany Wienke, External Relations, Rainforest Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org, +01 646 452 1939
NEPCon (Nature Economy and People Connected) is an international non-profit organisation that works to build capacity and commitment for mainstreaming sustainability. For over 20 years, we have worked to foster sustainable land use and responsible trade in forest commodities. We do this through innovation projects, capacity building, and sustainability services.
We are accredited certifiers for sustainability schemes such as FSCTM, PEFC, RSPO and SBP. We offer Chain of Custody certification according to the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture standard. We also certify to our own LegalSourceTM and Carbon Footprint Management standards. A self-managing division of NEPCon promotes and delivers our certification services. Surplus from certification activities supports the development on NEPCon’s non-profit activities.
Our work with certification systems extends far beyond service delivery. We are constantly engaged in improving certification schemes to support their credibility and impact on the ground whilst enhancing access to certification for small enterprises.
In line with our Open Source Policy, tools and systems that we develop under our programmes are freely available. We place great focus on transparency and knowledge sharing, and we collaborate with the entire range of stakeholders, including governments, NGOs and industry organisations. Learn more at www.nepcon.org
About RA-Cert and the Rainforest Alliance
RA-Cert is the certification division of the Rainforest Alliance, encompassing all certification, assurance and auditing programmes that the Rainforest Alliance currently manages across agriculture, forestry, and tourism. RA-Cert delivers its services with a global staff and a network of partners located across North America, Central and South America, Africa and Asia Pacific. The Rainforest Alliance’s certification and assurance team helped establish some of the leading sustainability standards in forestry, tourism and agriculture. The RA-Cert expertise, transparency and integrity is recognised and valued around the world, and we continue to innovate and drive improvements in these standards. https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/business/certification-verification
The Rainforest Alliance works towards a future where people and nature thrive in harmony. It is an international non-profit organisation working to build strong forests, healthy agricultural landscapes, and thriving communities through creative, pragmatic collaboration with farmers, foresters, communities, scientists, governments, environmentalists, and businesses. The Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ in January 2018, joining forces to rejuvenate agricultural landscapes, conserve forests, foster sustainable livelihoods, and build climate resilience across vulnerable regions; transform business practices and drive supply chain innovation; and engage consumers in positive change. Learn more at www.rainforest-alliance.org and www.rainforest-alliance.org/business/
Q&A on the RA-Cert/NEPCon Union
The Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon have announced our intention, subject to agreement on detailed terms, for NEPCon to acquire the RA-Cert business unit that manages Rainforest Alliance's certification, assurance and auditing services.
Below are some questions and answers related to the NEPCon and RA-Cert union.
Why is RA-Cert separating from Rainforest Alliance?
In January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ (a leading certification scheme for coffee, cocoa, and tea) merged as an organisation. Also at this time, Rainforest Alliance assumed ownership of the agriculture certification programme that had been previously managed by the SAN (Sustainable Agriculture Network). These changes have positioned the new Rainforest Alliance as an agriculture certification scheme and standard owner. On this basis, Rainforest Alliance is seeking to make its in-house certification body, RA-Cert, independent.
What will be the future RA-Cert/NEPCon relationship with Rainforest Alliance?
Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon will uphold their collaborative relationship, including synergies on standards development, impacts reporting, and continued innovations in certification delivery. Our close partnership includes continued use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal for current RA-Cert clients certified for FSC and Sustainable Tourism, in addition to Sustainable Agriculture.
What is the timeline?
Our planned timeline includes contractual matters beginning in March followed by transition planning for the RA-Cert programme to move to NEPCon during Fall of 2018.
Who is NEPCon?
NEPCon (Nature Economy and People Connected) is an international non-profit organisation that works to build capacity and commitment for mainstreaming sustainability. Founded in 1994 in Denmark, NEPCon works to foster sustainable land use and responsible trade in forest commodities through innovation projects, capacity building, and sustainability services.
NEPCon is an accredited certifier for sustainability schemes such as FSC, PEFC, RSPO and SBP. NEPCon offers Farm and Chain of Custody certification according to the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard. The organisation also certifies to their own LegalSourceTM and Carbon Footprint Management standards. Learn more at www.nepcon.org
Why did Rainforest Alliance choose moving forward with NEPCon?
Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon have been close collaborators since 1998, initially working together on FSC certification. Currently NEPCon is RA-Cert’s agriculture certification representative in Europe, managing RA-Cert’s clients and audits in that region, and we jointly developed our FSC auditor training programme. NEPCon has been an innovator on topics/systems such as group certification, smallholders, forest legality, risk assessments and other valuable areas. NEPCon has a strong record of focusing on the quality and credibility of certification processes and decisions. Rainforest Alliance is confident in NEPCon as a mission-oriented certification body, as well as an organisation that is working across many other innovative solutions for responsible practices. RA-Cert and NEPCon have almost no overlap in geographic scope for our core services. This means RA-Cert will be able to preserve its staff and partners with NEPCon.
Who is the head of the organisation?
Peter Feilberg, NEPCon Executive Director will continue leading the organisation also after RA-Cert joins NEPCon.
Where is NEPCon’s head office?
NEPCon’s headquarters office will still be in Copenhagen, Denmark, as it is now. NEPCon has staff based in 20 countries across Europe and Asia, as well as Russia, Australia and the United States. RA-Cert will bring additional operations from Africa, Latin America, Asia, the US and Canada.
What kind of services will you deliver?
We will continue certification, verification and assurance services that both NEPCon and RA-Cert have been delivering in forestry, agriculture, tourism, responsible sourcing, biomass, and carbon footprinting.
Will my primary contacts for certification change?
We do not expect a change in your current contacts. RA-Cert and NEPCon have very little overlap in the regions where our suite of services is offered. This allows our clients to work with the same local representatives.
Will my audit schedule and auditors change?
We are planning a transition, for RA-Cert clients to NEPCon, that will not disrupt your normal audit process. We will continue to work with the same expert staff, partners, and auditors RA-Cert has established globally.
Will clients be able to continue using the RAC Seal?
Rainforest Alliance and NEPCon will have a collaboration agreement that sets a working relationship around FSC and Sustainable Tourism clients continuing to have access to the RAC seal. More details on the future program will be provided when they are ready. The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture certification programme will continue to offer the seal as already defined in that scheme.
Is the standard for Sustainable Tourism going to change?
If and when RA-Cert joins with NEPCon we will continue to offer the same tourism certification services against the current certification standard requirements.
Will RA-Cert stop doing sustainable agriculture audits, or any of its other programmes?
No. RA-Cert is committed to its certification and auditing programmes which includes agriculture, forestry, and tourism standards. We will continue to offer all of RA-Cert’s existing certification services and conduct audits to these standards, including Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture and UTZ.
Will NEPCon provide auditing services for non-certification areas?
Yes, and NEPCon is already doing this. NEPCon offers bespoke tailored services for responsible sourcing. The RA-Cert Assurance programme will move with RA-Cert to NEPCon as part of the intention for acquisition.