The Effect of Certification on Biodiversity

An expert panel of business and civil society leaders and academic experts has published the findings of a state-of-knowledge assessment of standards and certification. The report provides insight into the actual, perceived and potential impact of sustainability standards and labelling schemes on biodiversity and other environmental and social aspects .

London, 15/08/2012 - A 12-member Steering Committee composed of international business and civil society leaders and academic experts released its final report, Toward Sustainability: The Roles and Limitations of Certification. This consensus report describes what is known and what is most important to learn about the performance and potential of voluntary standards and certification and its impact on environmental and social aspects.

Report findings

The Steering Committee found substantial evidence of improvements in social, environmental, and economic practices resulting from certification at the site level, as well as some instances of unintended effects, positive and negative. However, they also found that the evidence of broader or longer-term impacts is more limited. In many cases, the Committee discovered, research has difficulty attributing outcomes directly to certification. Consequently, Committee members believe that additional coordinated research on the impacts of certification, as well as greater collaborative effort to systematically collect data, is a top priority.

The Steering Committee also found that the indirect impacts of certification on aspects such as biodiversity are substantial and probably greater than the direct impacts. Voluntary standards and certification may be most effective, they believe, as part of a suite of integrated public and private sustainability tools. Standards and certification are useful complements to regulatory policies and other private voluntary sustainability initiatives, filling gaps and to introducing incentives for supply chain innovation. This speaks to the need for designing voluntary standards to work better in concert with other approaches.

The Assessment Process

The Steering Committee commissioned four in-depth academic reviews of the peer-reviewed and gray literature focused on the certification of forestry products, wild-caught and aquaculture seafood, and agricultural farming systems. Additional commissioned reviews examined business drivers for engaging with certification, a typology of private governance tools, methodological approaches for improving research on the impacts of certification, and other research contributing to analysis. Based on the preliminary, combined review findings and subsequent outreach meetings, the Steering Committee drafted and refined the main chapters of the report in 2011. These chapters were then subject to peer review late last year and have been finalized, along with report recommendations and an executive summary.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and Mars, Incorporated, initiated and funded the consensus-based process that led to this report. The process was chaired by Patrick Mallet of the ISEAL Alliance and facilitated by RESOLVE, a nonprofit collaboration and mediation organization that served as the Secretariat.

Read the original ISEAL article here and download the report here.
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