Sunday, March 13, 2011

What gives value to an eco label

ISEAL, recently came out with an interesting report, the ISEAL 100 survey. In it we can read the views of 100 "thought-leaders" on environmental and social standards. One chart that struck me was this.

So the view of the users (i.e. companies) of these systems is that most important to create trust in a standard is: verification processes, including accreditation and third-party certification (55%);
a standard document at just the right level (science-based, comprehensive, practical) (38%);
a credible multi-stakeholder standard-setting process that has the support from all relevant parties – NGOs, producers, companies (35%),
a transparent governance model (32%);
and being able to show impacts (11%).

I found this discouraging and it strengthen my view that the people involved in the "sustainability industry" (folks that are environment, CSR managers, employees of certification and standardization bodies, consultants like myself, international NGO or international organisations) are losing the grip of what is important, the impact. The "worst" case is the ISO "management" standards (ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and ISO 22000), but their thinking has spread all through the systems. In some cases this is just a result of more or less intentional green-washing, but in most cases, I believe it is a result of application of the same kind of industrial, standardized and simpleton thinking that brought us the problems which were to be solved.

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