Conservation news

Rainforest Alliance hires Global Forest Watch head as President

  • The Rainforest Alliance, an NGO that pioneered eco-certification as a mechanism for reducing the impact of consumption on the environment, today named Nigel Sizer as its new President.
  • Sizer, an ecologist who has worked with a number of non-profits, is perhaps best known for heading up World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch, a forest mapping and monitoring platform.
  • Rainforest Alliance’s focus on certification is consistent with Sizer’s work on Global Forest Watch, which has become an important tool for companies to do risk assessments on the commodities they source.

The Rainforest Alliance, an NGO that pioneered eco-certification as a mechanism for reducing the impact of consumption on the environment, today named Nigel Sizer as its new President. Sizer, an ecologist who has worked with a number of non-profits, is perhaps best known for heading up World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch, a forest mapping and monitoring platform.

Sizer, who will assume the leadership role next month, was publicly welcomed by Daniel Katz, Rainforest Alliance founder and board chair.

“With the recent Paris Agreement underlining the crucial role forests play in fighting climate change, the world is keenly aware that we must work together to ensure forests are conserved and carefully managed for the survival of people and our planet,” said Daniel Katz, Rainforest Alliance founder and board chair, in a statement. “Nigel has seen first-hand the vital connection between sustainable land-use and forests. Now is the ideal time for a leader with his track record to lead the Rainforest Alliance at this critical point in our history, as we resolve to build on our mission to protect biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods around the globe.”

Rainforest Alliance’s focus on certification is consistent with Sizer’s work on Global Forest Watch, which has become an important tool for companies to do risk assessments on the commodities they source. The platform includes in-depth data on palm oil, logging, and wood fiber concessions in several countries as well as information on certified mills and plantations.

Global Forest Watch maps show tree cover loss in the vicinity of the United Cacao plantation on top of forest with 75 percent canopy density. Satellite images don’t turn up tree cover loss on the plantation before 2012 (above), only after 2013 (below). The company began clearing the land to plant cacao in May 2013. By August 2014, crews had cleared more than 2,100 hectares.

“Hundreds of companies have listened to customers and are embracing commitments to deforestation-free and responsible coffee, cocoa, rubber, palm oil, soy, beef and paper,” said Sizer in a press release. “Millions of small farmers and communities could be big winners from these commitments or be excluded and impoverished. The Rainforest Alliance sits squarely at the intersection of these challenges. Inspired by a vision of responsible consumption and land management, I have no doubt that with more creative partnership, innovation and technology, we can build on the organization’s impressive track record to further green forestry and farming and lift millions out of poverty.”

Sizer’s departure from Global Forest Watch may be somewhat bittersweet for WRI. But the organization nonetheless congratulated him for the move.

“We are delighted that he will be assuming the leadership at the Rainforest Alliance, an exceptional organization – although we will miss him greatly!” said WRI CEO Andrew Steer. “We look forward to close partnership with the Alliance and with Nigel in the years ahead.”