story and photos by Christine Coester, special to The City Wire
FAYETTEVILLE — Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance, spoke at the University of Arkansas Wednesday night (Sept. 5) about how sustainability is becoming mainstream at a global level.
The lecture took place at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development.
Whelan said the Rainforest Alliance has five basic goals: keep the forests viable, curb climate change, protect wildlife, alleviate poverty and transform business practices. Mostly recognized by its seal containing a small tree frog on their products, the alliance identifies products that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Through growth and innovation, Whelan said, the Rainforest Alliance is expanding its efforts to provide people around the world with a higher standard of living by teaching sustainable development. With influence in 101 different countries and only 25 years under its belt, the alliance has made tremendous progress, with over 84 million acres now designated as conservation area and 70 million hectares for sustainable logging or crops.
“Globalization isn’t going anywhere, so instead we need to transform it. We work with manufactures and producers — all the key players — to design a standard of sustainability that can be modified by country and by crop,” said Whelan.
Through this standard of sustainability, the alliance makes sure that these companies are holding up their end of the bargain.
“We ensure workers have decent wages, that they have benefits. We teach farmers to improve crop quality and yield, as well as how to sustain wildlife habitats,” Whelan said.
Companies that work with the alliance reduce their own risk by ensuring their businesses receive a constant supply of quality product. When consumers make the choice to buy these products, they support these efforts to protect wildlife, keep water supplies free of pollution and prevent deforestation.
Whelan ended her presentation with a few words on the “spend shift,” seen among American consumers.
“Consumers are rethinking, revaluing. They are assuming responsibility, demanding accountability from those in charge and are making sure their values align with whomever they purchase from. We’re making progress.
“Sustainability works,” she said smiling.