Ekobai Newsletter: Eco-certification and markets (Jan 2015)

Dec 2014

Summary:  Top Level Domain vendors .eco and .green prepare to marketing their domains to the sustainability community in 2015; developments in sustainable palm oil; and is conflict gold certification coming?

Sustainability Top Level Domains (TLD): In the last few years, ICANN, the international body which decides who can issue top level domains like .com, .org and .info has added several hundred so called "TLD"s to the global roster.  There are now 735 active ones in a variety of languages.  Not surprisingly, the sustainability movement has acted to gain TLDs of its own.   To create value, users of sustainability TLDs need to demonstrate a level of commitment to the chosen area.  For example the organic community has .organic  and users must show some activities related to the organic movement.  Another general TLD, .green  appears to be more general with no specific requirements but a portion of the administering company's sales going to environmental projects.  .eco  is a TLD years in the making and which now has 60 leading environmental groups as supporters.   Again, precise requirements for using a .eco have not been clarified.  It is likely both will compete in the sustainability TLD space when both go on sale early in 2015.

Sustainable Palm Oil Update: The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil  held its annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur where it announced that close to 20% of global production of palm oil adheres to its standards.  Many leading European buyers like Unilever and Nestle have pledged to use only RSPO-certified product in their supply chains.  However, Indonesia has challenged the RSPO certification scheme by introducing its own certification program called Indonesia Sustainable Palm oil (ISPO) in 2011, and Malaysia will follow next year with its own certification mechanism called Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO).  The two countries supply 85% of global production and are eyeing growing markets in China and Asia where RSPO is not so entrenched.  Meanwhile on the ground level, US activist group the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is running a campaign aimed at preserving "the last place on earth", a region in northern Sumatra.  The campaign names a leading Singapore palm oil producer Musim Mas who is reported by to have suspended supplies from the region in question pending investigation.

Conflict Gold Certification Coming?   The Kimberly Process  began in 2000 as an attempt to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.  An associated certification scheme is in place for use by the jewelry industry.  Now it has been reported  major U.S. jewellery companies and retailers have started to take substantive steps to eliminate the presence of “conflict gold” from their supply chains.  Rights advocates, backed by the United Nations, have been warning for years that gold mining revenues are funding warlords and militia groups operating in the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).   The concern was triggered by a report issued by human rights and celebrity-backed group Enough Project, specifically naming US firms Tiffany and Signet. 

GMO Pressure for Europe: Organic Market Info reports on new legislation which will allow EU member states to restrict crops containing GMOs without an EU wide mandate.  " The approved text would entitle member states to pass legally binding acts restricting or prohibiting the cultivation of GMO crops even after they have been authorised at EU level. The new rules would allow member states to ban GMOs stating environmental policy objectives as a justification. These objectives would relate to environmental impacts other than the risks to health and environment assessed during the scientific risk assessment."

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