Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Certification schemes

Sustainability standards and certification schemes are voluntary business standards relating to environmental, social, ethical and food safety issues. Typically they are assessed by an independent certification organisation. Consumer-facing certification labels, when used, show people that company practices fulfil certain criteria or meet certain standards, and can in principle help inform their consumption choices. With new schemes added each year, there now exist hundreds of sustainability certifications. Some of the most well-known include ‘Fairtrade’, organic (certified nationally), and the Rainforest Alliance. While these certification efforts can lead to positive outcomes, some argue they may not always be as effective as intended for multiple reasons, some of which are outside the control of the participating companies. For example, the effect on poverty of various voluntary certification standards t is sometimes thought to be limited. In addition, for many certified commodities there is an oversupply relative to demand (i.e.up to 50% of compliant products are not sold as such). Most fundamentally, certification standards do not address the question of what level of demand can be deemed sustainable.

Photo credit: Steve Slater, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
29 November 2016

This article evaluates the impact of voluntary crop sustainability standards on biodiversity protection. The authors reviewed the 12 major crop standards (such as Organic cropland (IFOAM), Fairtrade and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), and found that only two of these prohibited all deforestation (Rainforest Alliance/Sustainable Agriculture Network and Proterra). 

16 February 2016

This report by a partnership comprising the International Trade Centre, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Institute for Sustainable Development summarises the recent market trends and growth in voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), for nine commodities.

17 December 2015

This report from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), reports that there has been 'steady' progress on certified sustainable palm oil use ­ with palm oil imports 72% sustainable in 2014 - up from 55% in 2013.

11 September 2015

Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production threaten global development and environmental well-being. Ensuring sustainable consumption and production should take a life cycle approach, and central to this is the development of product sustainability information (PSI).

This publication provides four key recommendations in order to advance a coherent and context-relevant use of PSI that is useful for consumer decision-making:

26 November 2014

Discussing how a very small proportion of the world's cocoa producers is responsible for the negative impacts of the industry, Oliver Nieburg of WWF presents options for improving performance.

4 June 2014

Fairfood International has published an issue briefing describing working conditions affecting sugar cane workers in Nicaragua.

27 February 2014

A new policy report from the Fairtrade foundation, Britain’s Bruising Banana Wars: Why cheap bananas threaten farmers’ futures looks at how price pressures in many banana producing countries have led to job losses, the casualisation of labour and the marginalising of smallholder producers. These in turn negatively affects wages, access to services and the environmental sustainability of banana production.

22 January 2014

The direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) from agriculture account for approximately 10% of total European Union (EU) emissions. In 2010, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to carry out a pilot project on the “certification of low-carbon farming practices in the European Union” to promote reductions of GHG emissions from farming.

21 May 2013

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has recently finalized a review of the its Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production (P&Cs),  and agreed a new set of standards. RSPO founder member WWF is signing up to the standards but cautions that they are not good enough.  It says that using palm oil certified as  sustainable under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is no longer enough to ensure companies are acting responsibly.

22 April 2013

A company wishing to market its product as green in several Member State markets faces a confusing range of choices of methods and initiatives, and might find it needs to apply several of them in order to prove the product's green credentials. This is turning into a barrier for the circulation of green products in the Single Market.

6 February 2013

Fairtrade International (FLO) has published ‘Monitoring the Scope and Benefits of Fairtrade 2012’, a compendium of data and summaries of key research exploring the impacts of Fairtrade. The report highlights the importance of small farmer organisations in the Fairtrade system. This year’s report also provides the results of recent research studies containing evidence about the longer-term impacts of Fairtrade. Some key findings include:

11 December 2012

Researchers at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and the University of Leeds have published a new working paper in the NRI series on sustainable standards entitled “A Review of the Literature and Knowledge of Standards and Certification Systems in Agricultural Production and Farming Systems.” The paper outlines the rise of private standards in agriculture and explores their social, economic and environmental impacts. 

17 February 2012

In the FCRN newsletter of 9 February 2012 we reported on Tesco’s announcement, as covered by the Guardian and others, that it would no longer be putting carbon labels on its products.  However, since then Tesco has published a letter in the Grocer, clarifying its position.

11 November 2009

WWF has produced a 'Scorecard' assessment of the palm oil purchasing practices of major European companies that produce or sell everyday consumer products. Companies were scored on their palm oil sustainability practices in a two-step process. First, WWF evaluated company performance based on publicly available data in relation to the following four questions: