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Environmental certification has “lost its way”

Environmental certification schemes are “offering a false promise of sustainability”, according to a review of the major seafood, palm oil and textiles initiatives.

In its report, Changing Markets found that “in the vast majority of cases”, evidence of benefits to come from the schemes was “lacking”.

What’s more, schemes like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label for sustainable fish and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have “provided cover for companies that are destroying the environment”.

“The main conclusion of this report is that certification has lost its way and that its contribution to creating a more sustainable world is minute. We argue that it can even cause active damage,” the authors noted.

The experts also claimed that the schemes they assessed, which also included Friends of the Sea for fish and a range of other initiatives for sustainable palm oil, are “so focused on getting a vast majority of industry players on board, or meeting the growing demand for certified products, that they had to lower their standards”.

None of the palm oil schemes assessed has been effective at slowing down deforestation, for instance. Indeed, some companies have been moved to remove palm oil from their products until there are guarantees that production is not causing deforestation.

Changing Markets called for “serious reforms” and the abolition of some of the least ambitious schemes, which lead only to “label shopping” and spread confusion amongst shoppers.

The schemes named in the report hit back at the findings. MSC, for example, argued that research had been “cherry-picked”, according to an article on RSPO acknowledged that “every system can be improved”.