Rainforest Alliance appoints The Nature Conservancy’s Santiago Gowland as CEO

Global non-profit organisation The Rainforest Alliance has unveiled Santiago Gowland as its CEO, with the group continuing its environmental mission across a number of sectors including supporting key cocoa farming communities, reports Neill Barston. 

Its newly appointed chief executive has previously served as executive vice president for Latin America and Global Innovation at The Nature Conservancy, with previous experience leading sustainability initiatives at Unilever and Nike. 

The Rainforest Alliance has been notably active in relation to a number of agricultural segments, operating in over 70 countries to protect forests and biodiversity, take action on climate, and promote the rights and improve the livelihoods of rural people.

Last summer, the organisation, which agreed a merger with fellow non-profit group UTZ in 2018, produced a new set of guidelines for sustainability certification, which are scheduled to come into operation this year.

The group’s newly elected CEO Gowland succeeds Han de Groot in the role, and is a native of Argentina with a passion for conservation and sustainability. He brings extensive expertise in organisational innovation and sustainability transformation across multiple sectors, cultures, and continents.

As the alliance explained, the new postholder’s career is focused on bridging supply chain and landscape needs through business innovations for leading brands including Unilever, Nike, and Estée Lauder—and most recently, in the global environmental non-profit sphere at The Nature Conservancy.

At The Nature Conservancy, he championed the green technology strategy through systems innovation, partnerships with technology companies, and embracing lean methodologies—most notably, through the pioneering “Agility Lab.”

“I am thrilled to contribute my global conservation and business insights to accelerate the Rainforest Alliance’s vision of a world where people and nature thrive together. It’s crucial that we leverage social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities without delay. The Rainforest Alliance is uniquely positioned to bring farmers, forest communities, companies and consumers together to build a more sustainable and resilient future for people and nature,” Gowland said.

As the organisation added, with more than 30 years of experience in sustainability transformation, its goal remains to help create a more sustainable world by implementing proven and scalable solutions on the ground, while testing innovative ways to drive positive change at scale.

Its ambition is to transform the way the world produces, sources, and consumes, with a focus on cocoa, coffee, tea, bananas, forest products, and palm oil. Its four areas of work are certification, landscape management, supply chain services, and advocacy.

In 2020, 6.8 million hectares of land and more than 2.3 million farmers were certified according to the Rainforest Alliance’s rigorous sustainability standards, which are designed to improve economic, environmental, and social impacts for people and nature.

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