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Have ecolabels ‘lost all credibility’?

A report by the Changing Markets Foundation suggests that ecolabels are inefficient especially for seafood, palm oil and textiles.

Palm trees. Photo credit: Ibrahim Asad

Palm trees. Photo credit: Ibrahim Asad

The report argues that certification standards are lowered to enable industry players to get involved and this has weakened their credibility and confused shoppers.

The report highlighted seafood production as having particularly low consumer trust in labelling. Only 14% global seafood is certified, mainly by Friends of the Sea (FOS) and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). According to Euroactiv MSC was criticised last year for certifying the world’s largest yellow fin tuna fishery and FOS is not supported by the scientific community.

Sustain observer, the Marine Stewardship Council have responded to the claims, "Overall, the report cherry-picks critical research and unvalidated criticisms about the MSC and ignores the wealth of positive evidence both for the impact of the MSC programme and the strength of MSC assessments." 

The report also examines six sustainable palm oil certification schemes which it argues have failed to slow the destruction of rainforests and the loss of biodiversity.

Last month the supermarket Iceland announced they were going to stop using palm oil in their products. One of the reasons they stated for a total ban was their mistrust in ecolabels. Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker said “we don’t believe there is such a thing as guaranteed ‘sustainable’ palm oil available in the mass market.”

You can read the full report ‘The False Promise of Certification’.

There are currently over 460 different ecolabels being used across the world. Several of Sustain’s members carry out their own, very well regarded, certification schemes including the Soil Association’s Organic Standard, RSPCA Assured, the LEAF Marque, the Organic Farmers and Growers Certification, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Fairtrade FoundationBiodynamic and Pasture for Life.

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Food and Farming Policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.



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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.