What is a Sustainability Standard?

There is usually a control and certification scheme coupled to a Sustainability Standard. This ensures that companies who adopt the standard are true to their word, as checked by an independent third party. By keeping non-compliers out, it increases the reliability of the Standard in public eyes.

Therefore, reliable and certified Sustainability Standards can help consumers differentiate products based on their sustainability. An environmentally motivated consumer may, for example, acquire FSC or PEFC (standards for timber industry) certified paper, and be sure to contribute to sustainable forest exploitation.

There is an important feedback effect in consumer differentiation of these products. If consumers do value them over non-certified products, this provides an incentive for even more companies to adopt such Standards. Because of this mechanism, when a new Standard is set, its developers hope that one day it will become the norm and not the exception in that sector. It is then time to develop even bolder Standards, surely clearing the path towards sustainability.