News Article | June 6, 2017
Hierdoor kunnen bedrijven op een efficientere manier een erkend duurzaamheidscertificaat behalen, en hiermee hun toeleveringsketens verder innoveren. Het stroomlijnen van het certificeringsproces is ook goed nieuws voor de 182.000 cacao-, koffie- en theeboeren die nu nog onder de twee afzonderlijke standaarden gecertificeerd zijn. Het helpt ook nieuwe boeren in het programma om efficiënter te investeren in duurzaamheid, omdat de fusie een einde maakt aan de dubbele hoeveelheid administratieve rompslomp als gevolg van het werken met twee certificeringsmodellen. Quote: Han de Groot, algemeen directeur, UTZ "De uitdagingen waar we voor staan zijn urgenter dan ooit: klimaatverandering, ontbossing, systematische armoede en ongelijkheid zijn in toenemende mate verweven met ons bosbeheer en de manier waarop we voedsel en bosbouwproducten verbouwen. De toekomstige Rainforest Alliance zal een groter bereik en luidere stem hebben, waardoor we het milieu beter kunnen beschermen, en boeren, bedrijven en consumenten de kans kunnen geven om makkelijker, méér verantwoorde keuzes te maken. We kijken terug op continue groei en sterke samenwerkingen – deze fusie geeft ons meer invloed om zo dichter bij onze uiteindelijke missie te komen: een wereld waarin duurzame landbouw de norm is." Quote: Nigel Sizer, voorzitter, Rainforest Alliance "Onze doelstellingen liggen heel dicht bij elkaar, namelijk met boeren en lokale gemeenschappen samenwerken om het milieu te beschermen en de effecten van klimaatverandering op mondiaal niveau terug te dringen. Door te fuseren met UTZ, en in samenwerking met SAN, bundelen we onze krachten om de impact op de levens van boeren en bosgemeenschappen te vergroten, biodiversiteit te beschermen en bedrijven te belonen die kiezen voor duurzaamheid." Quote: Daniel Katz, oprichter en voorzitter van de raad van bestuur, Rainforest Alliance "Meer dan ooit zijn sterke samenwerkingen nodig die garanderen dat we het hoogst haalbare doen om een duurzamere planeet te creëren. Deze nieuwe alliantie brengt ons verder in de zin dat het vooraanstaande mondiale natuurbeschermings-inspanningen combineert met de gouden normen van onafhankelijke certificering door een derde partij. We geloven dat de Rainforest Alliance, UTZ en de Sustainable Agriculture Network in hechte samenwerking meer boeren en meer ecosystemen wereldwijd begunstigt. Quote: Roberto Vélez, CEO Colombian Coffee Growers Federation "Duizenden Colombiaanse koffieboeren die gecertificeerd zijn onder zowel UTZ als de Rainforest Alliance, zullen de vruchten plukken van deze ontwikkeling. Het zal hen veel opleveren, zoals getoetst worden aan één standaard in plaats van twee en als gevolg daarvan aanzienlijk besparen op auditkosten. Hierdoor kunnen koffieboeren efficiënter investeren in duurzaamheid en hun inkomsten verhogen, en zo bijdragen aan hun economische duurzaamheid. De Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) vertegenwoordigt meer dan een half miljoen families die zich toeleggen op koffieteelt in Colombia." Quote: Jason Clay, WWF senior vice-president, Markets and Food "Deze verandering biedt kans om marginale producenten in ontwikkelingslanden te helpen hogere omzetten voor hun producten te genereren, door de harmonisatie en vereenvoudiging van mondiale certificeringsprogramma's. Dit moet het gebruik van betere teeltechnieken versnellen, en productie en verkoop van basis benodigdheden (zoals koffie, cacao, thee en bananen) blijven verbeteren. Ik prijs de bestuurders van zowel de Rainforest Alliance en UTZ dat zij dit samen aangaan voor het gemeenschappelijk belang." Quote: Andre de Freitas, algemeen directeur, Sustainable Agriculture Network "De Sustainable Agriculture Network ondersteunt het samengaan van de Rainforest Alliance en UTZ volledig. Als een belangrijke partner van de Rainforest Alliance in de afgelopen twintig jaar, zullen we deelnemen aan het bestuur van de nieuwe organisatie en kijken we ernaar uit dit in de komende jaren te ondersteunen." Quote: Pascal Baltussen, Vice President, Commercial, van Mars Chocolate "Al jaren maken zowel de Rainforest Alliance als UTZ deel uit van onze duurzaamheidsinspanningen om alle cacao in onze keten volledig duurzaam gecertificeerd to produceren. Om duurzaamheid te kunnen bereiken, is een grotere impact en zekerheid nodig. We hebben dan ook hoge verwachtingen dat deze fusie een positieve verandering teweeg zal brengen voor de leefomstadigheden van boeren en landbouwpraktijken op grote schaal; iets wat enorm nodig is." Over Rainforest Alliance (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/) De Rainforest Alliance is een internationale non-profit organisatie die samenwerkt met mensen wiens levensonderhoud afhankelijk is van het land, door hen te ondersteunen met het omvormen van de manier waarop zij voedsel verbouwen, hout winnen en reizigers accommoderen. Van grote multinationals tot kleine community-based coöperaties; wereldwijd zijn bedrijven en consumenten betrokken bij de inspanningen van de Rainforest Alliance om verantwoord geproduceerde goederen en diensten naar een internationale marktplaats te krijgen, waar de vraag naar duurzaamheid in hoog tempo toeneemt. Over UTZ (https://utz.org/) UTZ is een programma en label voor duurzame landbouw. Duurzame landbouw helpt boeren, arbeiders en hun families met het realiseren van hun ambities en draagt bij aan de bescherming van de natuurlijke hulpbronnen van de aarde, nu en in de toekomst. De missie van UTZ is het creëren van een wereld waarin duurzame landbouw de norm is; waar boeren goede landbouwpraktijken implementeren en hun boerderijen winstgevend houden met respect voor mens en planeet. UTZ streeft naar een wereld waarin de industrie investeert in en duurzame landbouw beloont, en consumenten hun aankopen op waarde schatten en vertrouwen.
News Article | June 6, 2017
AMSTERDAM and NEW YORK, June 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, two of the world's leading sustainability certification organizations, have announced their intention to merge later this year. The new organization, to be named the Rainforest Alliance, will tackle environmental and social issues around the world, including climate change, deforestation, poverty and unsustainable farming. It will create a single global certification standard that will simplify certification for farmers and empower companies to build more responsible supply chains, more efficiently. It will also work to expand advocacy efforts and through new partnerships ensure conservation of entire landscapes in priority regions from India to Indonesia, Guatemala to Ghana. The future Rainforest Alliance will help ensure that more products are responsibly sourced, helping farmers and companies meet the growing demand for products with sustainable credentials. The future sustainability standard, a single certification program known as the Rainforest Alliance standard, will utilize the respective strengths of the current Sustainable Agriculture Network and UTZ standards while creating a single auditing process for certificate holders. As a result, it will be an easier path for companies to achieve proven sustainability certification, allowing them to drive innovation throughout their supply chains. Streamlining the certification process will also help the 182,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers currently certified under both standards and new farmers alike to invest more efficiently in sustainability, avoiding a double administrative load of working with two standards and certification systems. Adopting the name 'Rainforest Alliance' helps retain well-established engagement with consumers. By combining forces, the two NGOs will provide a leading platform to help increase demand for responsibly sourced products. Together, the new organization will act as an advocate for change, continuing to protect the natural environment and striving to make sustainable agriculture and forest management the norm by working side by side with communities, businesses and governments. An aim that is already at the core of the missions of UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance. Once the two organizations have merged, Han de Groot, current executive director of UTZ, will be the CEO of the Rainforest Alliance. Nigel Sizer, current president of the Rainforest Alliance, will take on the role of Chief Program Officer, Advocacy, Landscapes and Livelihoods. The future Rainforest Alliance will continue to be a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working in partnership with other organizations to promote sustainable agriculture. "The challenges we work on are more urgent than ever: climate change, deforestation, systemic poverty and inequality are increasingly intertwined with the way we manage land and produce food and forest products. The future Rainforest Alliance will have a bigger reach and stronger voice, allowing it to better protect the natural environment and allow farmers, businesses and consumers to be make even more responsible choices, more easily. We have a history of continuous growth and strong partnerships – this new venture will give us more influence to bring us closer to our mission: a world where sustainable farming will be the norm." Quote: Nigel Sizer, President of the Rainforest Alliance "Our missions are very similar, to work with farmers and communities in an effort to protect the natural environment and help mitigate the effects of climate change on a global scale. By uniting with UTZ, and partnered with SAN, we will combine our strengths to expand our impact on improving the lives of farmers and forest communities, protecting biodiversity and championing companies that are on the path to sustainability." Quote: Daniel Katz, Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Rainforest Alliance "Now, more than ever, stronger collaborations are needed to ensure we are doing the best we can to create a more sustainable planet. This new alliance moves us forward in that regard as it combines first-rate global conservation efforts with the gold standards of independent third-party certification. We believe that collectively the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and the Sustainable Agriculture Network, working closer together, will benefit more farmers and more ecosystems worldwide." "Thousands of Colombian coffee farmers who are certified by both UTZ and The Rainforest Alliance will benefit from this development. It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs. This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability." The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) represents more than half a million families dedicated to growing coffee in Colombia. "This shift offers an opportunity to help marginal producers in developing countries realize higher returns for their products through the harmonization and simplification of global certification programs. This should enable the adoption of better farming practices more quickly as well as continuous improvement in the production and sale of key commodities [such as coffee, cocoa, tea, and bananas]. I want to congratulate the leaders of both the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for coming together in order to find a common good." Quote: Andre de Freitas, Executive Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network "The Sustainable Agriculture Network fully endorses the merger between the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ. As a key partner of the Rainforest Alliance for more than two decades, we will participate in the governance of the new organization and look forward to supporting it over the coming years." "For years Mars has supported certification with both Rainforest Alliance and UTZ as part of our commitment to certify our entire cocoa supply chain as produced in a sustainable manner. To achieve sustainability even greater impact and assurance is required, therefore we have high expectations that this merger will result in a positive transformation of farmer livelihoods and land use practices on a greater scale, which is urgently needed." The Rainforest Alliance is a global nonprofit that works with people whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. From large multinational corporations to small, community-based cooperatives, businesses and consumers worldwide are involved in the Rainforest Alliance's efforts to bring responsibly produced goods and services to a global marketplace where the demand for sustainability is growing steadily. About UTZ (https://utz.org/) UTZ is a program and label for sustainable farming. Sustainable farming helps farmers, workers and their families to fulfill their ambitions and contributes to safeguarding the earth's natural resources, now and in the future. The mission of UTZ is to create a world where sustainable farming is the norm; where farmers implement good agricultural practices and manage their farms profitably with respect for people and planet, industry invests in and rewards sustainable production and consumers can enjoy and trust the products they buy.
News Article | June 6, 2017
AMSTERDAM y NUEVA YORK, 6 de junio de 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Rainforest Alliance y UTZ, dos de las principales organizaciones de certificación en el mundo, anunciaron sus intenciones de fusionarse para finales de este año. La nueva organización, que llevará el nombre de Rainforest...
News Article | June 6, 2017
La nouvelle organisation, qui sera nommée Rainforest Alliance, s'attaquera aux problèmes sociaux et environnementaux dans le monde tels que le changement climatique, la déforestation, la pauvreté et l'agriculture non durable. Elle créera un standard unique mondial de certification qui simplifiera la certification pour les agriculteurs et donnera le pouvoir aux entreprises de mettre en place plus efficacement des chaînes d'approvisionnement plus responsables. Elle travaillera également à élargir les efforts de sensibilisation et à assurer à travers de nouveaux partenariats la conservation des paysages environnementaux entiers dans les régions prioritaires d'Inde jusqu'en Indonésie et du Guatemala jusqu'au Ghana. Par conséquent, le chemin pour atteindre une certification durable vérifiée sera plus facile pour les entreprises et il leur permettra de pouvoir réaliser des innovations tout le long de leurs chaînes d'approvisionnement. L'uniformisation du processus de certification aidera également les 182 000 producteurs de thé, café et cacao actuellement certifiés par les deux standards ainsi que les nouveaux agriculteurs à investir plus efficacement dans la durabilité, en évitant la double charge administrative de travail des deux standards et systèmes de certification. Réunie, la nouvelle organisation agira en tant que défenseur du changement, continuant à protéger l'environnement naturel et luttant pour que l'agriculture durable et la gestion durable des forêts deviennent la norme grâce à un travail en étroite collaboration avec les communautés, les entreprises et les gouvernements : un but qui est déjà au cœur des missions d'UTZ et de Rainforest Alliance. « Les défis sur lesquels nous travaillons sont plus urgents que jamais : le changement climatique, la déforestation, la pauvreté générale et les inégalités sont de plus en plus entrelacés avec la manière dont nous gérons les terres et dont nous produisons la nourriture et les produits forestiers. La future organisation Rainforest Alliance possédera une plus grande portée et une voix plus forte nous permettant de mieux protéger l'environnement naturel et de permettre aux agriculteurs, entreprises et consommateurs de faire plus facilement des choix encore plus responsables. Notre histoire est faite d'une croissance continue et de partenariats robustes ; cette nouvelle aventure nous donnera plus d'influence pour nous rapprocher au plus près de notre mission : un monde où l'agriculture durable sera la norme. » « Nos missions sont très similaires : travailler avec les agriculteurs et les communautés afin de protéger l'environnement naturel et d'aider à atténuer les effets du changement climatique à l'échelle mondiale. En s'unissant à UTZ et en étant associé au SAN, nous allons combiner nos forces afin d'étendre notre impact sur l'amélioration des vies des agriculteurs et des communautés forestières, sur la protection de la biodiversité et sur le soutien aux entreprises en chemin vers la durabilité. » "Maintenant plus que jamais, des collaborations plus fortes sont nécessaires pour s'assurer que nous faisons de notre mieux pour créer une planète plus durable. Cette nouvelle alliance nous projette dans cette direction car elle combine d'excellentes actions mondiales de conservation avec les standards de référence en matière de certification indépendante tierce partie. Nous croyons que collectivement et en travaillant étroitement ensemble, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ et le Réseau d'agriculture durable profiteront à plus d'agriculteurs et à plus d'écosystèmes dans le monde entier. » « Cette évolution va profiter à des milliers de producteurs de café colombiens qui sont certifiés à la fois par UTZ et par Rainforest Alliance. Elle devrait leur apporter des grands avantages, comme celui d'être audités par rapport à un standard au lieu de deux, faisant ainsi des économies importantes sur les coûts des audits. Cela devrait permettre aux producteurs de café d'investir plus efficacement dans la durabilité et d'améliorer leurs revenus, contribuant ainsi à leur durabilité économique. » La (FNC) représente plus d'un million de familles dédiées à la production de café en Colombie. « Ce changement offre l'opportunité d'aider les producteurs marginaux des pays en voie de développement à réaliser des rendements plus importants sur leurs produits grâce à l'harmonisation et à la simplification des programmes mondiaux de certification. Cela devrait permettre l'adoption plus rapide de meilleures pratiques d'agriculture, de même qu'une amélioration continue de la production et de la vente des denrées importantes [telles que le café, le cacao, le thé et les bananes]. Je veux féliciter les leaders de Rainforest Alliance et d'UTZ qui s'unissent de manière à œuvrer pour le bien commun. » « Le Réseau d'agriculture durable approuve complètement la fusion entre Rainforest Alliance et UTZ. En tant que partenaire clé de Rainforest Alliance depuis plus de deux décennies, nous participerons à la gouvernance de la nouvelle organisation et nous nous réjouissons de pouvoir la soutenir dans les années à venir. » « Dans le cadre de notre engagement à certifier que le chocolat de notre chaîne entière d'approvisionnement est produit de manière responsable, nous soutenons depuis des années la certification Rainforest Alliance et UTZ. Pour parvenir à la durabilité, des impacts et des garanties encore plus importants sont nécessaires. Par conséquent, nous sommes persuadés que cette fusion va résulter en une transformation positive des moyens de subsistance des agriculteurs et des pratiques d'utilisation des terres à une plus grande échelle, ce qui est urgemment nécessaire. » Rainforest Alliance est une organisation mondiale à but non lucratif qui travaille avec les gens dont les moyens de subsistance dépendent des terres en les aidant à transformer leur manière de cultiver, de prélever le bois et d'accueillir les voyageurs. Des grandes multinationales jusqu'aux petites coopératives basées sur les communautés, les entreprises et les consommateurs du monde entier sont impliqués dans les efforts de Rainforest Alliance à fournir des biens et des services produits de manière responsable à un marché mondial où la demande en produits responsables augmente constamment. A propos d'UTZ (https://utz.org/) UTZ est un programme et un label pour l'agriculture durable. L'agriculture durable aide les agriculteurs, les travailleurs et leurs familles à réaliser leurs objectifs et contribue à préserver les ressources naturelles de la terre, maintenant et dans le futur. La mission d'UTZ est de créer un monde où l'agriculture durable est la norme : les agriculteurs mettent en œuvre de bonnes pratiques agricoles et gèrent leurs exploitations de manière rentable et en respectant les gens et la planète, les industries investissent dans la production responsable et la récompensent et enfin les consommateurs peuvent avoir confiance et profiter des produits qu'ils achètent.
News Article | June 6, 2017
La nueva organización creará una norma única para la agricultura sostenible, simplificará el proceso de certificación y seguirá mejorando los medios de vida para productores agrícolas y comunidades forestales. AMSTERDAM y NUEVA YORK, 7 de junio de 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Rainforest Allian...
News Article | March 1, 2017
Thanks to this town’s proximity to a virtual airborne highway, aviary attractions in Summerville, SC have taken flight. Just in time for spring migration season – of both the avian and human variety – Summerville’s local merchants and naturalists are celebrating the season. This town just 25 miles from Charleston has built a bevy of avian activities that will have tourists flocking to “Flowertown” from March through May. Tourists can explore and celebrate wonderful feathered creatures in several ways that appeal to the artistic and active, the avid and the amateur. The town may be onto something. Of the 47 million Americans who avidly bird watch, nearly 18 million observe birds away from home annually, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report – Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis. With its tree-lined residential streets, nearby plantations and sprawling forests, Summerville offers a promising habitat for natural resources to thrive. The town spans a prime section of the Southeast’s extensive natural aviary habitat that is home (permanently and sporadically) to countless species of birds and other wildlife. Among the themed calendar items are guided birding walks in historic downtown Summerville and nearby Beidler Forest, a special (Prothonotary) “Warbler Blend” Coffee, bird-themed painting nights at Wine & Design, Night Flight Yoga followed by a flight of beer, the downtown B.I.R.D.S. Sculpture Trail, and even more. Downtown Summerville Guided Birding Walks Staff from the National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest offer free, guided walks in Summerville on the second and third Saturdays in the spring and fall. In the spring, the group is given special access to the yet-to-be-developed, 80-acre Ashley River Park that offers a variety of habitats. Painted Buntings at Summerville’s 7-mile Sawmill Branch Trail On the third Saturdays in the spring, guided walks explore the popular Sawmill Branch Trail. This walking and biking trail offers several great birding locations, and is one of the best places in the area to see the beautiful Painted Bunting. Walks are FREE and occur from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. No registration is required. A limited number of binoculars will be available for use. More: http://sc.audubon.org/activities/guided-bird-walks Night Flight Yoga Strike an eagle or a crow pose! A leisurely walk at Beidler Forest will warm you up for Night Flight Yoga scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of the month during migration season. Yoga happens in the warehouse at Coastal Coffee Roasters, which offers a beer flight for yoga participants following the class. Wine, soda or kombucha tea flights are available as well. Stretch Your Creative Wings Sit and sip with family or friends while painting beautiful birds at Summerville’s Wine & Design. Alight at 138 South Main Street on the first and third Thursdays of the month during migration season for a bird-themed painting night. More: https://www.wineanddesign.com/locations/summerville Sculpture Lovers: B.I.R.D.S. - Birds in Residence Downtown Summerville Visitors can “catch” more than 22 life-size bird sculptures in the open air on a walk through Historic Downtown Summerville. Birders and art lovers appreciate the chance to catch a glimpse of some of the region’s most recognizable birds in still form at stations throughout town. Born as a public art initiative to get people searching and discovering downtown Summerville, the collection includes: Barred Owl, Mourning Dove, Nuthatch, Chickadees, Bluebirds, Geese, Cardinal, Mississippi Kite and more. More: http://sculptureinthesouth.com/perm-birds.html In the world of real estate, success comes from location, location, location. The same can be said of Summerville’s avian tourism push. Much of the town’s activity links to its proximity to a world-class bird habitat, The National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest. Recently named the No. 5 birding destination in the country by USA Today’s 10Best, the forest’s Four Holes Swamp is one of only 1,890 sites worldwide to receive global recognition as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. More: http://sc.audubon.org/chapters-centers/audubon-center-sanctuary-francis-beidler-forest The undisputed headliner of this old-growth cypress-tupelo swamp is the Prothonotary Warbler, a brilliant yellow-orange swamp dweller. Other species sightings reported at the 16,000-acre environment – which is threaded through with a 1.75-mile boardwalk – include: the Great Blue Heron, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Mississippi Kike, Hooded Merganser, White Ibis, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Painted Bunting, and Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, among many others. (There have been some reported sightings of the elusive Swainson’s Warbler.) The park provides a free boardwalk-specific app for iPhones to help guide your adventure at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/beidler-forest/id360958025?mt=8 Warbler Blend Coffee This coffee from local Coastal Coffee Roasters is exclusively sold at Francis Beidler Forest. Grab a bag before embarking on the boardwalk. Warbler Blend is made from beans on trees where Prothonotary Warblers nest in Colombia, before returning stateside. The blend is Rainforest Alliance-approved, and meets the rigorous environmental and social standards of the alliance. All proceeds benefit Project PROTHO, a program that recruits citizen scientists to help Beidler learn more about the warblers’ breeding biology.
News Article | November 10, 2016
Stamford, Conn., Nov. 10, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Boxwood Means, LLC, a leading provider of property valuations and data analytics in the U.S. small-cap commercial real estate market, is pleased to announce that it is pledging a percentage of its SmallBalance.com revenues to environmental causes. Boxwood is committed to the efforts of nonprofits to protect and sustain the earth for future generations. Climate change is a particular concern because of its damaging effects on the environment and communities throughout the world. As a result, the firm is pledging $1.00 to environmental causes from every property valuation order received from clients on SmallBalance.com. SmallBalance.com is Boxwood’s online platform where over 150 commercial banks, nonbank lenders, mortgage brokers and investors order evaluations and appraisals of small commercial real estate properties nationwide. Clients use Boxwood’s property valuations for originating loans, as well as for loan extensions and renewals, credit reviews and portfolio monitoring. “Our firm was founded 13 years ago and, as a team, we’re extremely proud to be in a position to support this environmental giving program,” said Randy Fuchs, a Boxwood principal and co-founder. “Naturally our commitment to delivering high-quality service to clients remains our top priority, but this initiative adds new meaning to the work we do.” Boxwood has selected 10 “blue-chip” organizations for donations on an equitable basis including The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resource Defense Council and the Rainforest Alliance, among others. Donations will be made on a continual basis throughout the year. “We all feel a responsibility for giving back,” said David Colonna, Boxwood’s sales director. “And we trust that our clients will appreciate the modest role and responsibility that we’ve undertaken in support of sustaining the globe for future generations.” ****** Boxwood Means, LLC (www.Boxwoodmeans.com) is a Stamford, Conn. -based real estate valuation, and data analytics firm supporting the commercial property investment and risk management needs of a diverse base of commercial mortgage lenders, and investment and services firms. Boxwood owns and operates SmallBalance.com, its client-service web site for obtaining collateral valuation products, data analytics and research in the small commercial property and loan markets.
News Article | March 4, 2016
Where do flowers come from? It’s kind of a funny question to ponder, because many of us don’t know. Of course, we all know that flowers are a part of a plant. We all know plants grow in the ground. We all know those gorgeous, long-stemmed roses you give your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day don’t grow in the florist’s shop. But we don’t think about their origin. About 90% of all roses are grown on flower farms in South America, with Colombia and Ecuador in the lead, and many of the ferns surrounding those roses come from Costa Rica or Guatemala. In South and Central America, floriculture represents thousands of jobs, often for women, and is a thriving industry. In fact, Americans spend about $1.9 billion on Valentine’s Day flowers. Your lovely holiday bouquet contributes to an important source of income for thousands of people in the tropics. But because flowers are not grown for food (at least, not usually), the floriculture industry is not as closely regulated by governments as other crops. Flower farmers tend to use liberal doses of toxic pesticides and other agrochemicals to boost plant productivity. In some instances, the governments of countries importing the flowers actually require extensive pesticide use to ensure flowers are free of pests when they arrive. This agrochemical use comes at a huge price to the farm workers, their families and communities, and local water systems. As agrochemicals circulate through the waterways, drinking water supplies can become contaminated, which in turn negatively affects the health of local communities. They can also impact the health of the vibrant aquatic and stream-side habitats, disrupting life cycles of the plants and animals that live in those ecosystems. The soil on and near the farm also suffers. We’re only just beginning to understand the incredibly important role soil plays in terms of regulating climate and sequestering atmospheric carbon—not to mention the complicated symbiotic relationship between microorganisms in the soil and plants. But when agrochemicals are introduced into this delicate environment, the whole system is compromised. It’s safe to say traditional flower agriculture may not be the best of ways to grow a rose. Thankfully, there is an alternative. Over the course of four years, we at the Rainforest Alliance worked with the Sustainable Agriculture Network to develop strict sustainability requirements for farms. Farms that adhere to these requirements actively protect worker health, minimize agrochemical use, and work to keep soil and waterways clean. At Ipanema Farms in Colombia, for example, you can see the beneficial effects of using these sustainable practices from your first step onto the farm. Just outside the rows of multicolored roses, you can see the rich, biodiverse reservoirs the farm established to provide habitat for wildlife. These fish serve as water quality indicators—the moment the fish start dying, farm managers know something is wrong and can work toward solving the problem. Also found on the farm is the rare tingua bird, considered endangered by the IUCN—and another sign of booming biodiversity. Ipanema Farms employs more than 3,000 people—and around Valentine’s Day, that number swells to almost 4,500. Each employee has access to medical care, a critical criteria of the sustainability standards. Workers can also bring their young children with them, knowing that they’ll be looked after at the daycare and school center on the farm’s premises. Because the farm adheres to the sustainability requirements, pesticides are used only when absolutely necessary, when all other forms of pest control have been tried. This keeps a huge amount of dangerous chemicals out of the water system, soil, and away from farm workers. And ultimately, it produces a healthier, higher-quality product—a rose that comes from a hardy, resilient plant. For Valentine’s Day, Ipanema Farms exports 30 million roses to the United States. Ipanema Farms is not an isolated example. Sustainable floriculture is happening all over the tropics, from Costa Rica to Ecuador to Kenya—and at all different scales, too. At Flores y Plantas Ornementales in Costa Rica, another certified farm, nearly 4,500 tons of tropical flowers are exported each year. In Kenya, certified flowers from smallholder famers move up the value chain to major retailers in Europe. Currently, about 2,800 acres of flower farms worldwide are using these sustainable practices. That’s about 78 billion flowers. These farms’ sustainable agriculture practices go beyond worker health, soil and water health, and protecting biodiversity, though those are all very important. By keeping natural systems in balance, giving and taking from the land in a symbiotic fashion and by producing a high-quality product, these farms increase their long-term business viability. This ensures a good working environment and quality of life for their employees—and their employees’ families. So when you give your Valentine a certified bouquet, consider the fact that those flowers are also supporting families, sustainable agriculture practices, and wildlife.
News Article | December 15, 2016
First in a series on tackling global poverty while protecting the environment. Read the intro. For the one in 10 people around the world living on less than $2 a day, life is an emergency. Every day, poverty kills an estimated 15,000 children under the age of 5. The world’s ambulance is growth. To save those kids, countries need higher incomes, more medical clinics, modern water pipes, and sewage treatment plants. Switch on the sirens and go screaming down the superhighway of economic growth, however, and the world will spew out enough greenhouse gas emissions to put millions of lives at risk from pollution and climate change. There’s no way poor countries are going to stop and wait until they figure out a zero-carbon route out of poverty — and they shouldn’t. But what if they could slow down just a little bit, and cut way down on emissions? That would look a lot like Costa Rica. A few months ago, I got a chance to see for myself. On a clear sunny day, I found myself jolting up a country road in Costa Rica. It definitely wasn’t the aforementioned superhighway — it was a bumpy pass that went straight up a mountain. I was traveling in the coffee-growing highlands on a trip organized and paid for by the Rainforest Alliance — it certifies sustainable foods (you’ve probably seen its frog stamp of approval) and had flown out a batch of journalists to show us how it’s done. As we bumped up improbable roads, I found myself looking out over the steepest fields I had ever seen. Coffee trees clung to the mountainsides, up one vertiginous slope and down another. As we crested a ridge and looked ahead to the next, I thought about how difficult it would be for families who owned these farms to get their kids to schools and doctors’ appointments, or even to get electricity out to homes. But at that moment, I spotted a pole bearing wires. When we stopped in the next tiny hamlet, I poked my head in a church. It had electric lights. We were still on the grid. Costa Rica is well into the transformation from a poor subsistence farming economy to an affluent modern economy. There’s cellphone service just about everywhere. The literacy rate is 97.8 percent. The country has universal health care and vaccination rates higher than the United States. Just 1.7 percent of households lack potable water. Statistically, even the poorest residents are comparatively healthy. The average Costa Rican lives a little longer than the average person in the United States. The median income is around $7,000 a year — not much compared to the median of $56,000 a year in the United States, but enough to stay well fed. Throughout history, whenever a country escapes poverty, a bunch of things happen at once. Some farmers start growing more food, while others move to cities. Farming goes from being the primary occupation to a pretty unusual job. Eventually, after people have moved to high-tech jobs, like making microchips or writing code, the economy’s footprint shrinks. Forest cover increases. Incomes rise. Birth and death rates drop. Economists call this the “structural transformation,” and it’s important enough that we’ve devoted an entire piece explaining it. The evidence is overwhelming: “Indeed, if history is any guide, no escape from hunger and poverty has been sustainable without a successful structural transformation,” wrote the economic historian, Peter Timmer. Usually a country in the throes of this transformation also trashes the environment along the way. But not Costa Rica; the country has accomplished all of this without adding much gas to the global greenhouse. Costa Ricans create a tenth of the emissions of people in the United States, and that’s not just because they are poorer. The economy runs cleaner: It takes half as much carbon to produce the same amount of goods and services in Costa Rica as it does in the United States. The country aims to be carbon neutral by 2021. Its electrical grid has been running for months on end on clean energy. So if we look to Costa Rica as a model for other countries that want to tackle poverty sustainably, what can we learn? When I finally got off that terrifying road, I walked into a steep field owned by two brothers, Jonathan and David Vega Cerdas. Rows of chest-high coffee trees ran along the contour lines. Taller trees and banana plants provided dappled shade. The slope dropped away to a gray-green reservoir far below: one of the country’s many hydroelectric dams, I would later learn. Jonathan is older and cheery — he had recently gotten married and started his own family. David is quiet, with a shy wit — he’s a dirt-bike enthusiast, and when I asked if he was married, he joked that he was married to his motorcycle. Their farm is small, just 7.5 acres, which is typical of this region in the Tarrazú mountains south of the capital. Jonathan and David’s father had worked in the United States, and returned with enough money to buy the land. There are a lot of small plots like this one in Costa Rica because the government gave land to citizens starting in the 1800s and continuing through the 1960s. This formed a large population of yeoman farmers. Distributing land was a cheap form of welfare — it gave poor people a way to make a living and control their own destiny. It also gave them a say in politics. Countries dominated by a few elites employing an underclass of laborers tend to respond to the complaints of the poor with violence. But in Costa Rica, “relatively equal land distribution, access to unclaimed crown lands for poor farmers, and the lack of an easily exploitable indigenous population produced a large class of free farmers unused to subjugation by the colony’s leading families,” write historians Christine Wade, John Booth, and Thomas Walker in Understanding Central America (all following historical references come from this source). Land distribution helped the poor, but hurt the environment: In the 1970s, Costa Rica had one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Because it had a relatively democratic government, Costa Rica poured money into education, health, and agriculture, starting before 1900. This allowed small farmers to build up savings and send their children to school. The government investment was spread fairly equitably. That’s a key difference between Costa Rica and countries that trashed the environment while moving out of poverty. In many countries, as economies grow, a few people capture the wealth while the rest remain desperately poor. And so those countries are stuck longer in the ugly, polluting period of economic immaturity: In the countryside, hungry people knock down forests to survive; in the city, the people laboring the smokestacks are mostly too desperate to advocate for better conditions, explains Princeton economist Angus Deaton in his book The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality. For example, in England’s industrial revolution, writes Deaton, the Dickensian conditions of the “dark, satanic mills,” weren’t miserable because industrialization was bad, but because the government failed to provide clean water and toilets for laborers. Peasants moving to factory jobs in the cities got higher incomes, but they also got cholera. But in Costa Rica, people moving to cities already had some money, skills, and education. Those who stayed on the farms also got more money and education, and they organized to endow themselves with greater economic and political power. The Vega brothers, for instance, are part of a cooperative of some 400 farmers, called CoopeTarrazú, which processes and markets its own beans. Farmers acting on their own only get a tiny share of the final market price for their crops, but the members of CoopeTarrazú are able to get more money for their work because they collectively own most of the value chain for their coffee. They grow it, collect it, clean and dry it, and sell the beans to companies like Caribou Coffee. Their coffee collective is also a potent political force. “The government doesn’t do anything affecting coffee without consulting us,” said Félix Monge, CoopeTarrazú’s field and business manager. It’s institutions like this that push politicians to take care of the people they represent. Government or nonprofit investment in agriculture doesn’t go very far if their agents have to talk to small farmers one at a time. That’s a major challenge for farmer education efforts around the world, Melinda Smale, a professor of international development at Michigan State, told me. But when farmers work together, it becomes much easier to help them improve their techniques. The Rainforest Alliance had taken me to see the Vega brothers because the group had worked with CoopeTarrazú agronomists to zero in on better forms of management. They planted nitrogen-fixing trees, cut back on their pesticide use, and dug soil amendments into their fields. Their father thought they were crazy, and neighbors who saw the diversity of trees beginning to rise over the farm jokingly asked if they were growing coffee or a forest. But these methods allowed the brothers to double their yields while cutting their fertilizer use in half. When you make just enough to get by, it’s hard to take a risk on new, supposedly more sustainable techniques. The development of institutions in Costa Rica — like farmers’ cooperatives and a stable government — has allowed more rapid diffusion of new ideas and technologies to lots of small farmers. More than half of the farmer-members of CoopeTarrazú have earned the Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainability. There are a lot of things about Costa Rica worth copying, but there are also ways in which it’s a horrible role model. The country has a history of yeoman farmers in part because the colonial Spanish almost completely killed off the indigenous people. In other parts of the Americas, colonial powers enslaved or exploited the people they colonized. But in Costa Rica, the colonists had to do the farming themselves. This put the country on a more democratic track than its neighbors, but for the worst possible reasons. Costa Rica also got lucky during the Cold War. While foreign meddling wreaked havoc in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras, U.S. interference in Costa Rica came mostly in the form of money. The United States paid Costa Rica over a billion dollars in the 1980s to allow the Contras (Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries) to set up bases within its border. This money allowed the country to keep its safety net relatively intact through a severe recession. Costa Rica got aid that stabilized the democratic government, while its neighbors got coups. That’s not a model other countries can follow. But there’s an obvious lesson for wealthy countries seeking to help: Using poor countries for proxy wars increases poverty and environmental depredation; providing aid money can do just the opposite. On my visit to Costa Rica, we spent hours inching across the capital city San José, guided through narrow surface streets using the app Waze. It’s popular in Costa Rica because the obvious routes are frequently locked with traffic. As the country moved from a primarily agricultural economy to a manufacturing and service economy, people left their farms for San José. They took jobs making microchips and medical devices for international corporations that came looking for an educated workforce. But the country failed to provide mass transit options to get these commuters to work. So people bought cars. Today, transportation is a growing source of pollution. That’s not the end of the country’s infrastructure woes: The electrical lines that impressed me so much are aging, and many towns need new sewage treatment plants. Costa Rica’s deteriorating infrastructure is a turnoff for international companies looking for a place to set up shop. Costa Rica’s green image is clearly a selling point for companies: All you have to do is move there and: Boom! You’re running on nearly 100 percent renewable electricity. That green reputation also draws thousands of tourists. But tourism and foreign corporations aren’t enough for a vibrant economy. For real stability and green prosperity, Costa Rica will need more homegrown companies. In theory, after you use tax breaks to lure in a company like Intel, as Costa Rica did in 1997, new companies start to spring up around it. Perhaps someone opens shop next door to provide parts. Perhaps locals — who saw a need for something new while working at Intel — found startups. In other words, you get businesses that spawn businesses, jobs that spawn more jobs. Some of that has happened, but not as much as many had hoped. And there are major problems with courting foreign corporations with tax breaks. If corporations aren’t paying taxes, it means countries have less money for infrastructure and education. It’s also risky: Jobs that come quickly can leave quickly. In 2014, Intel closed its largest operation in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a long way to go, but it’s still a worthy role model for pulling populations out of poverty. If Namibia or Haiti could look like Costa Rica in terms of prosperity and sustainability, we’d be cheering. When people talk about policies for developing countries, the debate over free trade tends to dominate the conversation, but setting that aside for now, there are bigger questions with clearer answers. How do you go from growing beans and corn and chopping down your forests to manufacturing computer chips and leading eco tours? What are the keys to this green structural transformation? The history of Central America I cited above notes that Costa Rica has repeatedly done better than its neighbors. Why? All the reasons listed above boil down to governance. The democracy managed to keep investing in the people, rather than allowing a few powerful people to direct policies to their own end. At least, if you look at the big picture. At the end of my trip to Costa Rica, I got a very small-picture reminder that the country still has a way to go: One after another, my group of journalists and Rainforest Alliance workers turned green and went running for the bathroom. We’d probably slurped up some bug in the water. I waddled onto the airplane back to the United States clutching a box of anti-diarrheal pills. It’s easy enough to find vomit-inducing examples of bad governance — or bad water systems — in Costa Rica. But the national statistics, and my overwhelmingly positive impressions of the country, suggest it’s doing something right: healing the environment by helping the people. If more countries follow something like Costa Rica’s path, there’s real hope that people around the world could make it onto the ambulance out of immiserating poverty while also improving the world for future generations. In the next installment I’ll take a step back and lay out the evidence for hope in 10 charts — it’s entirely possible to for the people in the greatest peril to become prosperous while simultaneously shrinking their footprint on the land.
News Article | October 28, 2016
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