Through conducting research on numerous eco-labels and certification programs for paper and wood products, one message became clear. The message is basically, as consumers, we need to distinguish between a corporation with bad habits wearing a CSR costume, or a genuinely morphing entity seeking to operate in harmony with nature.

A company’s commitment to CSR is more commonly evaluated by how deeply CSR is embedded in their mission, values and operations. Do they just give money to a whole bunch of charities? Or have they taken the initiative to assemble a plausibly sized green team? Do they have a bunch of small efforts here and there that they market like mad? Or do they operate internally in so many responsible ways that the public may not even see?

This other method of evaluation that I want to propose, that was inspired by my eco-label research, was to judge a company based on the strength, not quantity, of its certifications. With eco-labels, not all labels are created equal. In the US, FSC is the largest and generally most trusted certifying organization for wood and paper products. The criterion they set for companies to meet is very thorough and of high standards relative to other certifying programs out there. Thus, a company that advertises this one certification is more credible than a company that can show 5 certifications that are all easy to obtain.

Some deceptive labels or supposed certifications that are commonly used include biodegradable, earth smart, hypoallergenic and recyclable, just to name a few. One may be surprised to find out that none of these labels even require any verification or certification. There’s little available proof for you to decide whether or not to trust the company that is telling you there product is all four of those labels. However, with a well ran program like FSC, their single label helps you stay assured that there is actual evidence backing the claims.

The takeaway here is, when labels signal a company’s CSR efforts, it is the classic scenario of “think quality and not quantity.”


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