RA-Cert and NEPCon Announce Intent to Merge
After two decades of close partnership, NEPCon and RA-Cert, the certification division of the Rainforest Alliance, 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.
NEPCon (Nature Economy and People Connected), based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is an international non-profit organisation that works to build capacity and commitment for mainstreaming sustainability. New York-based RA-Cert encompasses all certification, assurance and auditing programmes that the Rainforest Alliance currently manages across agriculture, forestry, and tourism. 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,” says 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,” says Feilberg.
The transition of RA-Cert was predicated on two significant changes undertaken by the Rainforest Alliance. In late 2017, the Rainforest Alliance took over the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard and certification programme, and separately, in January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ, a leading agricultural certification body 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.
“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,” says Laura Terrall, director of RA-Cert. “RA-Cert is pleased to make this transition with NEPCon, which serves our shared mission to support sustainability on a local and global scale.”
NEPCon and Rainforest Alliance have been close collaborators since 1998, initially working together on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) 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,” says 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.”
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,” says Rainforest Alliance CEO, Han de Groot. “The acquisition of the RA-Cert program 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.”