SMBC requires producers to first meet the requirements for environmental certification and then to meet additional criteria to ensure that they maintain the forest cover that provides the habitat for birds and other wildlife. As a result, Bird Friendly coffee offers all the environmental benefits of organic coffee.
However, the additional standards require a minimum shade coverage of 40% and make recommendations for the diversity and size of the trees that make up the forest canopy. These standards provide a variety of habitats that support a wealth of wildlife. Biologists' surveys found that a shady coffee plantation hosts almost as much biodiversity as the untouched forest.
What are the labor standards?
Friendly Bird standards are not intended to address working conditions, but the requirement for organic certification creates some benefits for workers.
There are costs involved, as with any third-party certification program. In many cases, the obstacle to Bird Friendly certification is not related to SMBC requirements, but to the difficulty and cost of obtaining organic certification, which may require years of effort and expense before the producer returns.
In 2007, SMBC changed its rules so that Bird Friendly coffee farm certification would take three years instead of one. SMBC reasonably notes that forest cover changes little from year to year, and reducing the number of inspections helps control costs for farmers. However, the farm must be inspected annually for ecological certification.
A disadvantage for the consumer is that Friendly Bird coffee can be hard to find.
SMBC works with inspection agencies in different countries. A manufacturer wishing to be certified must schedule and pay for an inspection by one of these agencies.