sustainability standards

Kolk’s article was discussing about different sustainability certificates in coffee market. The same thing happens in many other markets, that there are several competing organizations selling the certification to companies. This whole system sounds pretty absurd. Firstly, many different organizations “compete” against each other, who can offer the best certification. Nevertheless the criteria for these certifications might be close to each other or even same. Which certification is the best then?  Is there are difference between these?

Most well known sustainability standards are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz certified, and organic.. Criteria for Fairtrade is to offer minimum prices that are paid to producers. Rainforest Alliance is more concerned by the conserving use of rainforest and its biodiversity. It does not require price floor but it seeks to improve economic situation of producers. Utz Certified aims  to create an open and transparent marketplace for socially and environmentally responsible agricultural products by traceability system and code of conducts. Organic standard provides a framework of minimum requirements of operations. There are also several smaller organisation’s certifications, i.e. 4Cs, or coalitions of private firms

The organizations are assessed by international peers against the ISO 17011 standard, which are general requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity. Most of the certificates demands constant auditing, not just in initial period, some companies might be audited even on yearly basis, to make sure that sustainable habits are carried year around.

secondly you need to buy the certification. This opens a change for corruption. Yes, clearly these organizations needs money for operations, but when the money is enough to operate, and what these organizations do with the “extra” money?

What is the best certifications on consumers side, how about on the organizations side? In Kulk article SL chose the certification according to the variance of the beans it provided. Price is the other factor that companies look for. It is more dilemmatic on the consumers’ side; there are not really differences between, more over preferences.

Does the certifications pays off? According to a study by Canadian public research firm GlobeScan, 73 percent of consumers that are familiar with the Fair Trade label also trust it.”As far as the beneficial impact of different standards on producers is concerned, no definite conclusions can be drawn, despite several studies on the implications of certification systems” (Kolk, 2010). “The few studies that compare multiple standards tend to find positive effects across the board, albeit in different ways: Fairtrade more often in the short run in terms of income and demand-side market creation, others concerning increased supply-side production efficiency and quality improvement” (Kolk 2012).


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