HELPS CHIQUITA PRODUCE
A "BETTER BANANA"
Chiquita Brands International, Inc. -- a global leader in banana production -- just announced that it has transformed its farming practices and led the way for the banana industry. The Rainforest Alliance monitors and verifies that Chiquita's farms abide by strong environmental and social standards, which have positive impacts on rural communities and tropical landscapes. By meeting the Rainforest Alliance's standards, Chiquita has improved water quality, instituted programs for recycling and safe waste disposal, dramatically decreased agrichemical use, and improved the quality of life of workers on all its company-owned farms in Latin America.
The Rainforest Alliance, together with its Latin American network of conservation organizations, helps farms achieve these dramatic results through developing and certifying the use of best management practices, which protect water quality, worker health and safety, and wildlife habitat. In addition to its work with the citrus, coffee, timber (SmartWoodTM), and cocoa industries, in 1991 the Rainforest Alliance developed the Better Banana Project to address environmental and social problems on banana farms in Latin America.
Farms are awarded certification only after trained inspectors visit each farm and verify that changes are being made in accordance with the program's standards. Almost 100,000 acres of certified banana farms (including Chiquita's farms) are currently managed under these stringent guidelines. Certified banana producers are allowed to use the Better BananasTM seal of approval in the marketing of their products.
In 1995, the Better Banana Project received the Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for its success in addressing environmental concerns without threatening the livelihood of banana companies and their employees. "The Better Banana Project is an example of the powerful results produced by effective nonprofit-business partnerships," said Frances Hesselbein, chairman of the Drucker Foundation. "We are pleased to see its continued success."
As of the fall of 2000, the Rainforest Alliance has certified 100% of the farms owned by Chiquita in Latin America as well as a significant number of independent producers who sell fruit to the company. In fact, 90% of Chiquita bananas sold in Europe and two thirds of the company's bananas on the U.S. market come from farms that have been certified by the Rainforest Alliance as meeting its standards for rainforest conservation, wildife protection, soil conservation, waste management, and worker benefits. "When we started our environmental efforts nearly a decade ago, the Rainforest Alliance offered the only comprehensive certification program for the banana industry, providing third party validation," says Bob Kistinger, president and chief operating officer of the Chiquita Fresh Group. "We also support the fact that the standards have become more stringent as new technology becomes available, providing for continuous improvements within our operations."
Chiquita has been at the forefront of on-farm innovation since it first became involved with the program in 1992. Investing tens of millions of dollars, Chiquita has implemented recycling programs and reforestation projects, modernized warehouses, protected rivers by setting up water filtration systems, designed safer and more comfortable packing plants, and instituted soil conservation measures. The company has also devoted considerable time and money to worker training, housing, schools, day care, and health and safety programs for employees and their children.
The changes at the farm level are tangible and dramatic, but the program has also generated improvements that are harder to quantify. According to the Rainforest Alliance's Chris Wille, the director of the Better Banana Project, "Perhaps the most important changes are in the minds of farm managers and workers who now see the value of conservation and view nature as an ally in crop production."
The Better Banana Project offers consumers a powerful choice. "Consumers can have their bananas and eat them too -- buying certified tastes good and protects the environment," says Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance.
Written by: Rainforest Alliance.
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