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.

17 July 2018

The US divisions of Danone, Mars, Nestle and Unilever have established the new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, hoping to influence policymakers and regulators in five key areas: product transparency, nutrition, the environment, food safety and a positive workplace for food and agriculture workers. According to the Washington Post, the new alliance supports the reduction of salt in packaged foods and the introduction of “nutrition facts panels” to highlight sugar and calorie information (read more here).

10 July 2018

UK charity Oxfam has launched a new campaign, Behind the Barcodes, to highlight human suffering in the food supply chain. Oxfam has scored the major UK supermarkets on their human rights policies in the categories of transparency, workers, farmers and women, and is encouraging shoppers to contact supermarkets to voice their concerns.

Image: Detmold, FIshing boat, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0
21 May 2018

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) hopes to use blockchain technology to make the entire seafood supply chain traceable. Working with tech startup TraSeable, fishing company Sea Quest and blockchain company Viant, WWF is running a pilot project to trace tuna through the supply chain by tagging catches with radio-frequency identification chips and QR codes - which can be scanned by a mobile phone.

Image: USDA, Man shopping in supermarket, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
21 May 2018

Shoppers do not notice sustainability rating logos on packaging, according to a report by QuadPackaging and Package Insight. In the study, 60 participants had their eye movements tracked while “shopping” in a retail laboratory. The products they were presented with were fictional brands with logos claiming different levels of sustainability. The logos did not represent a real sustainability standard. While 40% of the participants said that sustainability affects their purchasing decisions, the eye-tracking technology showed that 92% of the participants did not notice the sustainability logos.

Image: Craig, Oil palms in Malaysia, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
21 May 2018

This paper outlines the difficulties of governing the complex global palm oil supply chain, examines the narratives around the environmental and social sustainability of palm oil and analyses how power dynamics create a fragmented governance structure for palm oil. The author concludes that the palm oil industry has created a narrative in which only “unsustainable” palm oil production is to blame for negative environmental and social effects, and in which “sustainable” palm oil - and an increase in its production - is presented as being beneficial for conservation and local communities.​

10 April 2018

The Sustainable Restaurant Association has launched its One Planet Plate campaign, asking restaurants to showcase sustainable and ethical eating by devising one dish that uses local sourcing, zero waste, better meat, lower carbon footprint or other environmental or ethical considerations. Hundreds of restaurants are taking part in the scheme.

Image: Tristantan, Palm oil fruit, Pixabay, Creative Commons CC0
26 March 2018

A report from the European Commission Directorate-General for the Environment reviews environmental, social and economic aspects of palm oil production and consumption, and evaluates existing palm oil sustainability initiatives.

Image: Brian Boucheron, Fairyland Mesclun Mixed, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
19 March 2018

The Carbon Underground, Green America and various food industry partners are developing a new standard for regenerative agriculture. It is claimed that the standard will encourage farmers to restore soil and improve crop resilience and nutrient density.

19 March 2018

The 2017 Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare report analyses farm animal welfare management and performance of 110 global food companies, including retailers, wholesalers, food producers, restaurants and bars.

Image: Alberto Cruz, Farms in Périgord, France, Flickr, Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication
20 February 2018

The French government has announced that half of all food procured by its public sector must be organic or locally produced by 2022. The media coverage does not offer a definition of ‘local’ food.

Image: Apostolos, Cow, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
20 February 2018

A new technique has been devised to verify whether the cows producing ‘organic’ milk have actually spent the required 120 days a year grazing outdoors.

Image: BTC Keychain, Bitcoin Chain IMG_9185, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
13 February 2018

The blockchain could be used to make it easier to trace the source of food items and tackle food safety scares quickly, but the system still depends on the honesty of those making the data entries.

Image: Hernán Piñera, Regreso / Return, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
6 February 2018

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Liberty Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership have created a database to help corporate seafood buyers check fisheries for risk of slavery, forced labour and hazardous child labour.

Image: cuatork77, ROOSTERS, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
6 February 2018

Ikea has introduced a “Better Chicken Programme” aimed at improving animal welfare in the supply chains for its in-store cafes.

7 June 2017

An ad used by Arla Foods to promote their organic milk has been banned as it used the "misleading" claim that its production is "good for the land". 

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).