Certification showing it’s worth the investment
At a time when businesses, governments and consumers are looking for ways to deliver the most sustainability 'bang for their buck', credible standards are starting to show that they're worth the investment.
Around the world, governments, companies and consumers are thirsty for ways to support responsible business practice and to trust that the products they endorse are making a measurable difference for people and the planet. With so many options now at their disposal, one of the big questions is: Which tools provide the highest return on investment, the biggest sustainability bang for one’s buck?
Standards and certifications that follow credible practices are one of the few sustainability models to demonstrate their contribution to a more just and viable future. Pioneering ethical and environmental standards emerged a few decades ago, and in recent years, certification has begun to enter the mainstream in sectors such as forestry and seafood, and has taken root in challenging areas such as mining and electronics.
Looking at what’s been accomplished, we are not talking about a small group of consumers buying coffee from boutique stores. In agriculture, we are talking about several million certified farms and tens of billions of annual sales in coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, fruit and other commodities that meet Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified standards. In seafood, over 20,000 different products bear the blue Marine Stewardship Council seal. Worldwide 180 million hectares of forest meet Forest Stewardship Council standards for responsible forestry.
The uptake of certification by businesses should be turning heads. Earlier this year, McDonald’s announced that it would be selling exclusively MSC-certified fish products in its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. FSC has secured commitments from no less than 20,000 companies, the biggest of which include Kimberly-Clark and Office Depot, which explicitly favour FSC-certified products in their procurement policies. With promises from powerful chocolate companies such as Hershey to certify 100% of its supply chain in the next few years, estimates show that upwards of 30% of global cocoa production could be certified by 2020. Then there is the success of the London 2012 Olympics, where all tea, coffee, sugar, and bananas were Fairtrade certified.