Thursday, March 4, 2010

Eco-certifications, Eco-labels and Eco-logos in the Food Sector

Yesterday, Metro Vancouver, hosted a sustainability community breakfast on Eco-certifications, Eco-labels and Eco-logos in the Food Sector.

The three speakers included Mike McDermid with Ocean Wise at the Vancouver Aquarium, Brad Reid from Certified Organic Associations of BC, and Lloyd Bernhardt with Ethical Bean Fair Trade Coffee.

All three speakers discussed how eco-labelling and certification have become an integral part of their industry and present a number of challenges and opportunities. While there is much confusion around eco-certification and the ensuring of a reliable standard with consistent monitoring, all of the presenters noted that in the end, it is the consumer who has the greatest power in creating change.

One of these examples came from Mike McDermid with Ocean Wise. Ocean Wise was created in 2005 in Vancouver when 16 restaurants signed on to sell sustainable seafood products. This has now spread across Canada with over 300 restaurants on board. When they first started the program, they approached suppliers directly to see if they would like to sign on to promise sustainable fishing. At that time, none of the suppliers were willing to participate; however, since 2005, the number of suppliers that provide sustainably fished seafood has increased from an average of 47.50% sustainable product to 75.26% sustainable. This has been credited to the pressure of chefs and consumers who have demanded more sustainable goods.

 The power of the consumer is the keystone to sustainable business. One of the reason that business has become so unsustainable is because consumers have demanded the cheapest products without considering the impact of these products on the environment, society, and resources. By creating standards and certification processes, consumers now have a way of determining where their products come from and if they are sustainable. It is this increased demand for environmentally and socially sustainable products which has led industry to become more responsible.

As part of the question and answer portion of the breakfast, one of the participants invited the audience to participate in a 90 day challenge to only consume sustainably certified products. By participating in this challenge, it is hoped that consumers, in considering where their products come from, will realize the value of sustainable goods.

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