Analysis

Ekobai Newsletter: Eco-certification and markets (Oct 2014)

Oct 2014

Keywords:  Wholefoods, Collectively.org, Green Seal, Responsibly Grown

Summary:  Organic retailing giant Wholefoods creates its new eco-label; and we report on the use of standards in South Africa's Woolworths.  Corporate giants collaborate on a sustainability lifestyles site Collectively.org

Wholefoods in Own Eco Standard Move: Wholefoods is by far the world's leading retailers of organic produce.  In October this year it announced a new scheme for rating products and suppliers, called Responsibly Grown.  The obvious question for organic growers is "why a new system when we are already organic-certified?".  Wholefood states " The Responsibly Grown rating system was created to complement, not replace, existing labels on produce and flowers.  Organic produce will continue to be labeled in our stores. Responsibly Grown gives organic growers the opportunity to document achievement in additional areas such as energy, water and waste.  The Responsibly Grown rating system rewards growers for the work they have done to earn certifications by leading social and environmental organizations, including Fair Trade USA, Rainforest Alliance, Protected Harvest and Demeter Biodynamic. It also recognizes growers who go beyond the requirements for existing certifications."  Questions remain as to how existing organic and eco labels will co-exist on products on the shelves of Wholefoods stores.  Certainly the consumer's tolerance for multi-labeled products is limited.

 At South Africa's Woolworths: Woolworths is one of South Africa's leading retailers.  ISEAL Alliance provided an insight into the retailer's use of sustainability standards in its operating.  " The company has made some major commitments to sustainable sourcing as part of its aim to “sell products that cause the minimum of harm to the natural world in the way they are made,” including engaging with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to ensure that its wild-caught seafood comes from sustainable fisheries, as well as with Fairtrade and UTZ Certified to ensure that its coffee and cocoa are traceable and harvested using good practices. Woolworths was also the first African retailer to strike a broad, multi-faceted partnership with an environmental NGO (WWF-South Africa) in order to be certain that its sustainability efforts are on the right track."

Corporate Giants Push for Sustainable Consumerism: Some leading "companies led by BT Group, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola Co., Marks & Spencer and Unilever believes mainstream media coverage of sustainable consumer lifestyles is too subdued.", according to Greenbiz .  Via group Forum for the Future, the companies have funded a website Collectively which aims to graphically illustrate sustainable lifestyles.

The Story of an Eco Label: The history of eco labels is mixed with many failing to gain critical mass (yet remain alive) while others like Fairtrade and FSC have taken off with global regocnition.  Greenbiz reports on one of the more established eco labels, Green Seal.  The article notes that the label has not been able to catch a critical mass of consumer recognition and now seeks B2B markets - business to business and business to government.   Aside from the few labels (FLO, MSC, FSC) - this appears to have become the focus of most sustainability labels at present.

 

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