About certification

Even those consumers that are not very eco-savvy know Fairtrade bananas. Or they know they could give their mother fair trade roses for mother’s day. This is partially thanks to certification: they have seen the certificate on the product and might have come across a Rainforest alliance campaign so they know a little about it.

At IDH, we work with various certification bodies and in several programs we implemented a system to benchmark different standards in a particular sector against each other. So we very much recognize their importance… and more and more we see that working only on certification is not enough. The fancy and fashionable words we use for that are: ‘we see the need to go beyond certification.’

TFT’s Scott Python wrote a critical book about the beyond certification issue, arguing the case for ‘a new approach to solving social and environmental problems’. The book got published last month and attracted much attention. Amongst other things, Python states in his book that companies should set their sustainability targets based on their values. Additionally, they should do more to implement these values, he argues.

In the Innovation Forum Business brief published on Friday, more downsides of certification are mentioned. For example: once criteria are agreed, implementation must happen on an ongoing basis. This needs to be enforced by a monitoring system, to make sure that it is really happening. The Business Brief however also mentions advocates of certification, for example Greenpeace’s Grant Rosoman. He says that third-party verification and certification are an important instrument for companies’ credibility.

The Business Brief concludes with the argument that sustainability issues should be guided by a rational approach and hard facts. And speaking about facts; in an elaborate and informative online discussion on the question if GMO food is safe, published last week, William Slate has included a ‘GMO shopping game’. It implies the GMO labels on products do not necessarily inform you if products are safer than others. Have a shot at the game and see what you think! And if you have some time this weekend, do read the full article, as we found it quite informative.