Spending decisions - what you can do
Main types of sustainability standards include:
Independent - Typically developed by either an independent third-party group (such as an NGO, for example), or some form of industry and third-party group collaboration.
Standards Based - guidelines or standards to be met in order to qualify, or some baseline score to achieve, in order to obtain a certification.
Verifiable - The best certifications require robust third-party certification by credible, independent auditing agencies. Think ISO third party verification.
Voluntary - These are not required or mandated - yet.
Little or No Government Regulatory Requirement - While government participation may be present in some cases (such as USEPA Energy Star), these standards don't involve the government.
Fair Trade standards
Global: sectors - food and clothing.
The foundation of fair trade is price. Companies have to pay farmers a minimum price, to protect them if the market price falls, and farming cooperatives have to use the profits to improve their communities: by building schools, for example. Social and environmental benefits are believed to flow naturally from the money.
World Fair Trade Organisation Area
Global: sectors - food and clothing.
Unlike Fairtrade International’s certification system, the WFTO is a democratically-run community of social enterprises that practise fair trade. Through a thorough process including self-assessment, auditing, peer visits and public scrutiny, member organisations must prioritise social responsibility and sustainable practices.
Cruelty free standards
Check out the Leaping Bunny Certification.
Check out the definition of cruelty free products.
Rainforest and forest stewardship standards
Forest Stewardship Council Labels
Global: sectors home, crafts, books.
There are three FSC labels, which supposedly show a product has been responsibly sourced from a sustainably managed forest: “100%”, “MIX” and “Recycled.” An FSC label means every company involved in its production, manufacturing, processing and trading has to have an FSC Chain of Custody Certification.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
Global: sectors - home, crafts, beauty, food.
The Rainforest Alliance certification shows that a farm, forest or tourism enterprise has been audited and is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Global Organic Textile Standard
Global: sector - clothing.
GOTS’ international standards use on-site auditing to make sure textiles are organic at every stage of the production life cycle, from the harvesting of raw materials to manufacturing and labelling; any chemicals applied to the textiles also have to meet strict environmental and toxicological criteria.
Soil Association Area
UK: sectors - food, beauty, home, clothing.
The Soil Association is a non-profit organization promoting organic farming by producing reports, lobbying the government against harmful farming practises, running farming innovation programmes and more.
Their certification meets EU standards of environmental performance, but they also go further in improving animal welfare, protecting human health and safeguarding the environment.
Clean energy standards
Carbon Neutral Certification & Carbon Trust Standard
UK: sectors - general.
The Carbon Trust’s mission is to accelerate the move to a low-carbon economy by showing that a product or company’s total emissions have been offset by a combination of in-house measures (reducing energy use, increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy) and carbon credits as highest quality Gold Standard.
Find out more about the Carbon Trust standards, including their new "Product Footprint Label" which is appearing on more products, on their website