--Originally published in the Eco-Buy Green Purchasing September Newsletter - available here
While sustainability standards, certification systems and accompanying ecolabels have been around since the 1960s, it is only in the past decade that their market presence has become commonplace. This is illustrated by recent data from Ecolabel Index, an organisation that monitors voluntary standards and labelling initiatives. At the end of 2011 Ecolabel Index found there were more than 420 operational sustainability labelling initiatives in 246 countries, covering 25 different industrial sectors of the economy.
- Effectiveness: Does the standard have a programme in place for monitoring and evaluating impacts integrating this learning into improvements of the standard?
- Relevance: Are the highly important social and environmental challenges faced by the sector or industry being addressed by the standard?
- Rigour: Does the standard reflect best scientific understanding and does it reference relevant international norms? Does it require performance that measurable improves on the status quo?
- Accuracy: Does the standard have a well-functioning system in place for providing an accurate picture of whether a producer or enterprise is in compliance with requirements?
- Impartiality: Are assessments of compliance objective such that there are no conflicts of interest and auditor and audit process are not inappropriately influenced in their decisions?
- Co-ordination: Does the standard build on existing standards where relevant and collaborate with other standards systems to improve consistency and efficiency in operating practices?
- Operational Efficiency: Does the standard have a sound business and financial model in place as well as an efficient governance system?
- Engagement: Was a representative group of stakeholders involved in the standards development process and are relevant stakeholders engaged in the assurance and impacts evaluation?
- Transparency: Is there accessible information about the content of the standard and the certification process, sustainability impacts and the various ways that stakeholders can engage?
- Truthfulness: Are claims and communications about the standard easy to understand, accurate about benefits and precise in their language?
- Accountability: Does the standard have an independent complaints mechanism in place regarding its own activities and those of assurance providers?
- Accessibility: Is the standard equally applicable to all types of enterprises? Bearing in mind the end-user, is the assurance process no more onerous than necessary?
- Capacity: Does the standards systems facilitate training and access to resources for enterprises seeking assurance and to develop local assurance provision?