CERTIFIABLY SUSTAINABLE?

THE ROLE OF THIRD-PARTY CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS

Report of a Workshop

Committee on Certification of Sustainable Products and Services

Science and Technology for Sustainability Program

Policy and Global Affairs

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page R1
THE ROLE OF THIRD-PARTY CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS Report of a Workshop Committee on Certification of Sustainable Products and Services Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Policy and Global Affairs

OCR for page R1
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Govern- ing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineer- ing, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropri- ate balance. This study was supported by funding from the David and Lucille Packard Founda- tion. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14711-8 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14711-5 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, D.C. 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www. nap.edu Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

OCR for page R1
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Acad- emy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineer- ing programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is presi- dent of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Insti- tute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sci- ences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

OCR for page R1

OCR for page R1
COMMITTEE ON CERTIFICATION OF SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES Leslie Carothers (Co-chair), President, Environmental Law Institute Harold Schmitz (Co-chair), Chief Science Officer, Mars Inc. William Clark, NAS, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy, and Human Development, Harvard University Richard Jackson, Professor and Chair, Environmental Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles Pamela Matson, NAS, Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences and Goldman Professor of Environmental Science, Stanford University Project Staff Derek Vollmer, Associate Program Officer, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Jodi Bostrom, Associate Program Officer, Ocean Studies Board Kathleen McAllister, Senior Program Assistant, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program Emi Kameyama, Senior Program Assistant, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program 

OCR for page R1

OCR for page R1
Preface and Acknowledgments Consumption of goods and services accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the United States, and it plays a comparable role in other societies. Shifting consumption toward more sustainable produc- tion and use is accordingly a crucial element of a sustainability transition. One approach that has emerged over the past 15 years is third-party cer- tification: Products or services are scrutinized by an allegedly independent body, which then confers the right to advertise and label the product as “sustainable.” The basic belief is that consumption of certified products moves supply chains toward sustainability (in terms of environmental, social, and economic outcomes), both in the specific goods or services con- sumed and by providing incentives to producers and sellers to change their practices. Sustainably caught seafood, green buildings, and carbon offsets for air travel provide examples of goods and services marketed in part on their claims to be more sustainable than competing alternatives. Certification has been shown to be feasible from a technical and eco- nomic perspective within some markets, but tangible movement toward sus- tainability on the ground has been slow. Moreover, the market penetration of certified products remains small, with few exceptions. How can scientific and technical knowledge contribute to the success of certification and to the wider goal of moing consumption toward sustainability? This is a ques- tion to which the Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability (see Appendix C) brings significant advantages, with its wide representa- tion from business, government, and academia. In principle, science can strengthen assurance of sustainability to buyers; lower uncertainties faced by producers of certified products; and provide a credible fulcrum for critics ii

OCR for page R1
iii Preface and acknowledgments of the producers, organizing a debate that leads to continual improvement of certification standards. How to organize and provide these benefits of science remains unclear, however. In keeping with its theme of “Linking Knowledge with Action for Sustainable Development,” Roundtable members agreed that a workshop could help identify new areas for problem-driven research. To conduct this, a committee was appointed by the National Research Council to organize the workshop and write a report based on the discussions. The commit- tee invited expert practitioners involved with certification and certified products, along with select scholars and policy actors, to hold this initial discussion. The workshop represented an important step in learning from an emergent field of practice. Admittedly, focusing the workshop discus- sions on a particular tool (third-party certification) meant that discussions of other approaches to reducing negative impacts of consumption (e.g., government regulation) were limited. Background papers, and the opening sessions of the workshop, were both designed to place certification in this context, and the selection of certification as an approach worth examining is not an endorsement over alternative or complementary approaches. This report has been prepared by the committee as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. The statements made in this volume are those of the committee and do not necessarily represent positions of the workshop participants, the Roundtable, or the National Academies. The workshop and report could not have come together without the help of many dedicated staff members. Derek Vollmer directed the project and coordinated the report. Kathleen McAllister, Jodi Bostrom, and Emi Kameyama provided invaluable support both in writing background papers and in facilitating the workshop. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with pro- cedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Timothy Bartley, Indiana University; Lawrence Busch, Michigan State University; Anne Caldas, American National Standards Institute; Suzanne Lindsay, PetSmart; Robert Stephens, Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Performance; and Tensie Whelan, Rainforest Alliance.

OCR for page R1
ix Preface and acknowledgments Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authors and the institution. Leslie Carothers (Co-chair) Harold Schmitz (Co-chair)

OCR for page R1

OCR for page R1
Contents 1 Introduction 1 2 Certification’s Place in the Toolbelt 9 3 The Landscape of Certification Schemes 19 4 Standard Development and Implementation 27 5 The Market for Certified Products 39 6 Measuring Success 47 7 Optimizing Certification as a Tool 57 8 Future Research Directions 67 Selected References 73 BACKGROUND PAPERS Standardization, Certification, and Labeling, kira matus 79 Surveying the Landscape, derek Vollmer 105 APPENDIXES A Workshop Agenda 121 B Workshop Participants 125 C Roundtable Roster 129 xi

OCR for page R1