Categories
commentary

Do you like the taste of Fairtrade cocoa?

It may be at risk. It is not at all clear what the future holds for Fairtrade cocoa. The large food industry bodies involved in cocoa production are trying to develop a standard for sustainable and traceable cocoa through CEN, the European standards body. Fairtrade bodies are also, rather carefully, involved with the initiative given the vulnerability of the farmers themselves.

In part this is because all parties have valid concerns about the viability of global cocoa production, which suffers from serious agricultural challenges and chronic low incomes for farmers. The price of cocoa is likely to rise as a result. And cocoa production also suffers from very poor working conditions. The civil society response to these issues is behind Fairtrade cocoa. But what is behind the industry standardization initiative? And who is going to pay for it?

Could it be to grab a share of the premium Fairtrade market when prices have risen for the ordinary cup of cocoa?

Categories
commentary

You've outsourced your ethics – but they haven't gone away…

After the disastrous factory fires in Pakistan last year, a general review of the effectiveness of CSR approaches to supply chain and workers’ issues was needed.  A new report by the US union body, AFL-CIO, shows how poorly current supply chain auditing is serving workers. The report is particularly critical of SA8000 and the Fair Labor Association, both of which are the mainstay of international brands trying to improve the treatment of workers by their suppliers.

So how should companies react? This is a wake up call – the companies that use supply chain auditing standards should ensure that the standards bodies honestly review their effectiveness, as the ETI courageously did some years ago. The results are unlikely to be comforting and may well lead to a modest rise in prices of the goods involved.

But the report also makes the point that both governments and unions need to be properly involved. The solution to a major social problem is unlikely to be the result of just one social actor – the companies – doing their own thing.

Categories
announcements

Do sustainability standards really make any difference?

My new short e-book, Making the Most of Standards, looks at sustainability standards. Which ones are important? Why are they so boring? How do they relate to each other? And how do you choose amongst the thousands out there?

Categories
commentary

GRI G4: an end to PR perfection?

Will G4 provoke a backlash? The new draft of the GRI Guidelines, G4, represents a step change in reporting. G4 is more demanding in terms of materiality, boundaries, the value chain and in other areas. This could provoke the somewhat childish response from companies that ‘it is just all too much’. And together with the potential removal of the application levels, which function as a reward system, the GRI may be at a turning point.

A hostile response to G4 would be a childish response because, if they are read with some attention, the GRI does not demand perfection. The guidelines provide for those that cannot meet every requirement or report on every indicator. It simply asks why not and what the company plans to do about it.

Such a thoughtful response would, unfortunately, be counter-cultural for the great majority of organisations. For most, a report that does not look ‘finished’ (and glossy) is seen as letting down the brand. The demands of PR outweigh the need to think strategically about sustainability and reporting – and perhaps sometimes the need to think at all.

The world does not need more polished sustainability reports. But it does need a more thoughtful process of reporting and a more serious exploration of what a company’s place in a sustainable world might be. The draft G4 GRI Guidelines are an important step in that direction.

Categories
commentary

Governance of the AA1000 Standards

AccountAbility has just released a document on the current and proposed governance for the AA1000 series standards. Is this what is needed?

My view is that the Community Interest Company framework is a good move. However the intellectual property associated with the standards should be moved into the CIC.

Also, there is no mention of the role of stakeholders in supporting and developing the standards. Where is the multi-stakeholder input? This may not be quite so formally built in to the legal constitution, but it does need formal recognition within the governance structure.

Categories
announcements

What is the impact of ISO 26000?

I have produced a research report for IIED on how much difference ISO 26000 has and can make to sustainable development. It can be downloaded here.

Categories
announcements

What does 2012 have in store for sustainability?

Live discussion on the Guardian Sustainable Business website on Thursday 19th January with me, Andrew Simms, Alison Braybrook and Ed Gillespie.

Categories
announcements

Understanding IS0 26000 – a practical approach to social responsibility

My new book on ISO 26000 is now out!

With a Foreword from Kevin MCKinley, Deputy Secretary-General of ISO and a Preface from Jorge Cajazeira, the Chair of the Working Group that developed the standard, this book provides the background and some deeper insight into the interpretation and implications of ISO 26000, as well as into how it might be used. Aimed at both specialists and non-experts alike, this definitive guide should be the first point of reference for all those working on responsibility issues within companies and other organizations as well as those working in the field of standardization and in academia.

With chapters from the following experts involved in the development of the standard: Khawla AI-Muhannadi (Bahrain), Sandra Atler (Sweden), Aron Belinky (Brazil), Alan Fine (South Africa), Jonathon Hanks (South Africa), Adrian Henriques (UK), Dwight Justice (Belgium), Gwennan Manseau (USA), Martin Neureiter (Austria), Bart Slob (the Netherlands), Chen Wang (China), Miles Watkins (UK), Stepan Wood (Canada) and Lucy Yates (UK).

 

Categories
commentary

Spots & stripes

AccountAbility (the organisation) is going through difficult times. At the moment it is like a leopard without its spots – difficult to recognise for what it is.

There is an urgent need for AccountAbility to re-create its legitimacy. It must work with its stakeholders of every stripe, and be seen to be doing so. Otherwise there is a danger that the use of its various standards will fade away. And the jungle of voluntary accountability will become a bit more like a desert..

Categories
announcements

Everything you wanted to know about ISO 26000

Your questions on ISO 26000 answered – by me and others on YouTube.