Interesting speech about greenwash, ethical certification, spin and substance

Here’s a link to an interesting speech by Brendan May, MD of Planet 2050, a consultancy that’s part of Weber Shandwick.

Brendan is not the usual PR guy though. He was formerly founding CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council from 1999-2004.

In the speech he covers a brief history of business and sustainability, and offers some thoughts on effective communication.

On certification, being something of an expect in the area, he offers some useful thoughts in this excerpt below, on the characteristics of an independent ethical label:

“First – that there has been wide and thorough consultation on where the bar should be set and what criteria must be met in order to achieve the certification or stamp of approval.

Second, any auditing must be undertaken at arms length with no prospect of the farm, fishery, company or forest in question being able to influence its outcome.

Third – there must be full transparency in the result of the certification review and people must have the right to object to a positive result.

Fourth, there must be very strict requirements on how any label such as a Rainforest Alliance logo is used, for example on product packaging.

Fifth, products that meet the required criteria must throughout the supply chain be clearly segregated from products that don’t.

For example a seafood processing company may receive different sources of cod, which it then turns into fish fingers or fish pies. If only some of that seafood is from an MSC approved fishery, there must be no risk of mixing it up with non-certified fish in the factory leading to an incorrect use of the MSC logo on a product containing unsustainable catch.

And sixth, there must be regular re-inspections to make sure the requirements of certification and agreed improvements are being met. The potential loss of certification must be a constant incentive to anyone marketing their product as green or ethical.”

Useful stuff. The whole speech is well worth a read.

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