Does buying Fairtrade coffee and Forest Stewardship Council toilet roll have any impact?Accordingto a new report published last week the answer is yes - however certifications alone are not enough to save the world and a more concerted effort should be made by certification systems to collect information and data on their results, ensuring evaluations are conducted by external parties to maintain credibility, and establish a greater dialogue about sustainability risks and opportunities with the business community.
‘Toward Sustainability: the roles and limitations of certification’ is the final report of a 12 member Steering Committee, which included Dr Kira Matus, lecturer in public policy and management in LSE’s Department of Government. The report explores the current state of knowledge regarding the environmental, social and economic impacts of voluntary certification and looks at how businesses governments, NGOs, foundations and consumers make decisions about using or supporting certification.
“Given that there is proliferation of standards and certification systems, it is vital to understand the factors that influence their effectiveness” write the authors. “Businesses are key drivers for scaling up standards and certification systems [and] are in an influential position to drive innovation and continuous improvement in standards. There is considerable potential value in sharing with the business community information and knowledge generated by certification, engaging firms in efforts to learn about and evaluate risk and sustainability problems in supply chains, and thinking through transitions to more sustainable value chains.”
Dr Matus said: “One of the interesting things we found is that businesses who decide to certify their products for the most part don’t do it because they expect to secure a price premium in the market (and in many cases they do not), but rather because they see certification as good overall business practice. Our findings indicate that certification is not necessarily about tapping consumers willing to pay a bit more and it may not actually result in a direct increase in profits in the short term. Companies are interested in efficiencies both within and between standards systems and should use this position of influence to encourage efficiency gains through greater cooperation and harmonisation between standards systems”
To read the full report, see: www.resolv.org/towardsustainability