These are tough times for certification and eco-labelling systems. Independent standards programmes find themselves under growing scrutiny. In many ways they are victims of their own success, an achievement that should not be overlooked.
The more certified products hit the market place the more polarised the debate on consumer assurance becomes. Certification has come of age and we are beginning to build up a historical record from which lessons can be learnt.
More information at: Certification: Time to change the record
A timely comment and one that has wider implications for other agricultural supply chains. We must acknowledge the role played by certification in the early days in harnessing and driving efforts to improve standards and raise both brand and consumer awareness. But so too, accept that such models have been increasingly behaving like the companies they seek to change: obsessed with growing their market share and non-transparent about their real impacts.
Our work on tropical supply chains in recent years has revealed the good, the bad and the ugly in such systems. While some smallholder farmers have clearly benefitted from organizational and environmental efficiencies, economic benefits often remain elusive. If certification is to remain one of the tools in the sustainability toolbox, certifiers must allow an open and objective assessment of their real impacts, warts and all. Companies too, forever seeking an uncomplicated life, are complicit in the cover up. Why aren’t they demanding to see a real return on their investment, as they do with every other part of their business? Only by accepting what doesn’t work, as much as promoting what does, can certifiers sustain long-term credibility, and, more importantly, deliver the promise they made to both their clients and consumers.