Integrating Data to Support a Sustainable Future

This year, the Rainforest Alliance celebrates 30 years of upholding standards for conservation and labor achieved through partnerships with farmers, wood harvesters and the businesses that incorporate those harvests into their products. With a presence in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, the alliance has an impact on the sustainable practices of more than 1.3 million farms in 78 nations.

The green frog logo that appears on the Rainforest Alliance’s certified seal on a wide array of products lets consumers know which businesses are committing to these standards for their supply chains.

Eugene Kogan, chief technology officer at the Rainforest Alliance, explains that applicants for the seal who enter into the auditing cycle can have up to 250 criteria, depending on the crop, its location and the community. Accordingly, specific pesticide exclusions apply to certain sets of crops or soil, and other regulations can kick in for particular circumstances.

Kogan offers the example of the maximum height for the Arabica coffee plant. The height restriction is for safety reasons, to minimize the danger of a worker falling from a ladder. He stresses that the organization does not merely send auditors to check on compliance, but also “to help the farmers improve productivity and conserve biodiversity.”

Though the name of the organization evokes nature, the Rainforest Alliance relies on digital technology to track all the complexities involved in its certification program. Accordingly, in 2013, it opted to move to the cloud and selected Microsoft Azure as the primary provider for 95 percent of its computing, according to Kogan. The organization was recognized for its impressive digital transformation by the Digital Edge 50 Award, which it won in 2016 and 2017.

Despite its digital advances, the organization was still plagued by complexity. As Kogan puts it, “We had different systems and different applications,” and they were “not talking to each other.” So the alliance had to find a way to integrate the data from the various sources to gain visibility and a clear view of the audit trail of its clients.

Finding the Best Solution for Data Integration

The Rainforest Alliance found the solution in Scribe Software, which enabled the organization to advance data movement throughout the various applications (Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Dynamics SL), supply chain systems and the data warehouse (Microsoft SQL Azure).

Kogan explains that he and the application developer, Matthew Snyder, were already familiar with Scribe from their work with it in UNICEF. That was “definitely a factor” in selecting the software “for integrating the systems immediately,” he says.

Another factor was its affordability. Keeping costs down is essential for a nonprofit organization, Kogan explains: “The more we can save, the more goes back to our community.”

The alliance also saves time on design. Scribe’s newest version went live several months ago, and it has reduced design time by about 20 percent. In addition the software is easy to use because it doesn’t require writing code.

Kogan reports that the Rainforest Alliance has experienced significant improvements in data integration. “We know what’s going on,” he says, “and we’re confident in the tools. Moving data from one point to another works.”

The organization, he adds, is able to attach data and integrate different public formats and bring up data from the “SQL data warehouse for better analytics and better reporting.” That gives employees “the confidence that they can deliver our use cases” and easily find the data needed on demand.

According to Kogan, achieving better data integration yields “more insight into supply chain processes.” The analytics reveal more precise and valuable guidance in planning for the future. And that’s what it’s all about: the plans for a sustainable future, “not only for existing farmers, but for the next generation, as well.”

It all comes back to the Rainforest Alliance’s underlying mission: to bring value to farmers and to the planet.