Last week, company leaders, government representatives, NGOs, and certifying bodies gathered at the Just Means’ Certification, Consumption, and Change conference—which focused on the future of ethical product certification and eco-labels—to push for greater cooperation and consolidation among sustainability certification processes. Panel discussions—which included members from certifying organizations such as  Forest Stewardship Council, Green-e, Fair Trade, and the Rainforest Alliance—explored challenges related to giving consumers simple, user-friendly market signals to drive more sustainable purchasing habits.  

A key challenge is the rapidly growing field of labeling schemes, which is leading to a fragmented and confusing marketplace.  Currently, more than 350 labels compete worldwide, with varied claims about which companies, products, and services are truly environmentally and socially responsible. During the discussion, Green Seal CEO Dr. Arthur B. Weissman noted that even though new standards and schemes have helped companies raise consumer awareness, reach new customers, and improve methodologies, these developments will not lead to a great market transformation. He noted:

These issue are urgent and we need to move beyond competition and figure out how to work together toward our common goal of raising sustainability standards for all products.” 

—Dr. Arthur B. Weissman, CEO, Green Seal (May 24, 2011)

Do you think we need greater collaboration around certification schemes?