Published in 2012, this State-of-Knowledge Assessment sought to discover what is known and what is most important to learn about the performance and potential of voluntary standards and certification. The Assessment was governed by a 12-person Steering Committee composed of leading experts representing a diverse array of interests and chaired by ISEAL. RESOLVE - a nonprofit mediation organization - served as secretariat. The assessment’s key questions were:
• What is known about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of certification and labeling?
• What is known about whether standards and certifi cation systems are effective tools for promoting sustainability, and if so, under what conditions?
It 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. It stresses the point that voluntary standards and certification are most effective as part of a suite of integrated public and private sustainability tools. Standards and certification can bring about rapid changes in production practices when firms use them to support better practice and performance by their suppliers. They can also complement regulation, by filling gaps and introducing mechanisms for adapting to technological and social change. However, much of the evidence is case specific, preventing generalizations, and in many cases, it is difficult to attribute outcomes directly to certification. The report concludes with recommendations that actors engaged in certification redouble their efforts to improve the effectiveness of these tools, give more attention to designing them to work in concert with other approaches, and work together to research the impacts of certification and alternative or complementary approaches.
To read the original, full report and the executive summary, click below.