The false promise of certification: How certification is hindering sustainability in the textiles, palm oil and fisheries industries
Faced with the gravity of today’s environmental and social problems, consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainable products that minimise negative impacts on people and the planet. In the UK alone, the market for ethical products grew to more than £81.3 billion in 2017, with demand for sustainable fish growing by nearly 37% in 2016. Consumers often rely on labels to identify more responsibly made products. This trend has led to the proliferation in the number of different schemes and voluntary initiatives: The Ecolabel Index currently lists over 460 labels in 25 different sectors. But are they any good? This report investigated voluntary initiatives in three sectors where growing consumption and unsustainable sourcing have caused serious environmental problems: palm oil, fisheries and textiles. It shows that, rather than being an accelerator for positive change, the certification has lost its way and its contribution to creating a more sustainable world is minute. In order for voluntary initiatives to become part of the solution again, they need to undergo significant reforms, which should be based on transparency, independence, a holistic approach with high traceability, and a drive for continuous improvement.