But multi-stakeholder groups, despite their flaws (which are inevitable), are clearly the only way to go when there are significant NGOs with expertise, influence and reach in the area at hand.
This is clearly the case in forestry and seafood. Whilst some companies have found their standards too exacting for scale (another common problem for certification), setting up a competing sustainable standard with lighter-touch rules is probably not the answer in those two cases.
The story? That “Seven companies, including four from the Fortune 500, have made new commitments and actions to stop using the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) ‘eco-label’ on branded paper products or company publications.”
Admittedly, this is from ForestEthics, which campaigns against the SFI, but it clearly must be true. A partner organisation to SFI, PEFC, suffers from the same credibility and image problem. Some brands might use it, but few boast about it as they are entitled to do with FSC.
All this is not to say that companies cannot, and should not, go their own road when faced with little alternative choice. Many are, and are correct to do so.
But where there is already a credible organisation in place, such as with MSC and FSC, big brands and their suppliers should look to work with what is in place, rather than setting up their own, ‘lighter’ versions.
My prediction is that over time we’ll see these light green industry-driven ‘NGOs’ fall away.
Without significant challenge from real, consumer-backed NGOs, they will fail to drive progress towards significant targets for serious corporate members and will not have the credibility to convince consumers.