Matthew Boyle, Fortune writer
April 19 2007: 10:16 AM EDT
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Twenty years ago, Corporate America and environmentalists squared off regularly and acrimoniously across the globe. Today, large companies can't stop talking about their green initiatives, and groups like Rainforest Alliance (RA) deserve a slice of the credit.
Founded in 1987, the New York-based non-profit is one of the world's largest sustainability certifiers, and has helped Fortune 500 companies like Kraft, McDonald's, Whole Foods, and Goldman Sachs view sustainability in a new light. Annual sales of Rainforest Alliance-certified bananas, coffee, and cocoa just passed $1 billion dollars, and RA is the world's leading certifier of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forestlands, which are managed under strict environmental and labor standards. Executive director Tensie Whelan recently sat down with Fortune's Matthew Boyle to talk about how far her organization has come, and what still needs to be done.
The Rainforest Alliance turns 20 years old this year. How have your focus and methods evolved over the past two decades?
We spent the first couple years figuring out how to address this issue of tropical deforestation that everyone was worried about, but no one was doing anything about. We started by saying, we don't want to do boycotts. People are cutting down forests for economic reasons, not because they are bad people. So how do we reengineer the system to address that? How do we use the market to simulate conservation and change? Now a lot of people talk that way, but back then nobody did.
Read More ....