A discussion of green economy wouldn’t be complete without considering agriculture, which has massive impacts on our ecosystems: deforestation, pesticides and fertilizers, livestock emissions, to name just a few. The good news is that for the last 20 years, leaders in various agricultural sectors have set up ecolabels – certification standards that help make any agricultural commodity’s supply chain – from farmer to consumer – more sustainable. As time goes on, increasing numbers of agricultural certification programmes – as well as those for energy efficiency, sustainable manufacturing and so on – have been launched, covering everything from fair trade through fish to forests and beyond.
It can be overwhelming to stay aware of what these are and the standards they set, but it’s worth doing research so that you know what you’re buying, as consumers play a key role in the green economy. Meanwhile, here are a few of the major global ecolabels to seek out as you make your choices.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
Nutritious, delicious and rich in energy, palm oil, grown primarily in Southeast Asia, is in many everyday products, from crisps to breads, ice cream and cereals – where it’s described as ‘vegetable oil’ – to cosmetics and soaps. It’s also in demand as a biofuel. But growing oil palms typically involves clearing rainforest and peatland, which contributes to biodiversity loss and carbon dioxide emissions. WWF established the RSPO in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through credible global standards. It convenes stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry – producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation organizations and social or developmental ones – to develop and implement global standards for palm oil that ensure the least harm possible to the environment.
Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Aquaculture is too often demonized as having a negative environmental effect, but carried out responsibly, it can play a major role in providing a sustainable alternative to wild sea-food as human populations grow and fisheries are depleted. Established in 2009 by WWF (the global conservation organization) and IDH (the Netherlands Sustainable Trade Initiative), the ASC is currently still developing its standards – including those for the production of tilapia, salmon, shrimp, bivalves, freshwater trout and abalone. It aims to increase the availability of certified sustainable fish products, while creating a consumer label that will help people enjoy it free of guilt.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
We rely on forestry not only for ecosystem health, but also for some foodstuffs, and for our supply of wood used to create packaging, building materials, charcoal, paper and many more products. The FSC sets standards for sustainable, economically viable and socially beneficial management of the world’s forests. Look for this label to make sure your wood products came from legally logged, sustainably managed forests that have done no harm to old-growth forests or the people who live in them.