Environmental Certification: The Complex World of Responsible Purchasing

Cascades Logo Certification Environment

For or against certification? Last February 16, Fabien Durif and Nancy Corriveau of the Université de Sherbrooke’s Observatoire de la consommation responsable asked this question to me and 74 others from the fields of communications, marketing and sustainable development. The group was gathered as part of Université d’hiver, a series of development seminars whose theme this year was responsible communication.

Because of time constraints, we unfortunately weren’t able to discuss the subject. I’m really interested in the question, so I’d like to put it out there and hear what you think.

In recent years, we’ve seen a new wave of so-called green, eco-responsible and environmentally friendly products on the market. First off, there’s no such thing as a “green” product. All products, no matter what they are, have a footprint, so instead of calling something “green,” it’s better to call it “greener” or “more responsible.” Nowadays, some companies are choosing to have a third party certify that their products meet standards for minimizing environmental impact. Other companies just make these claims using their own ecolabels, which only confuse consumers about the products’ true environmental impact. There’s currently no regulation over this practice. Third-party certification is done on a voluntary basis and is used mainly for marketing purposes.

Cascades is working with many third-party certifying bodies to have our products clearly labelled. Our certifications include EcoLogo, a certification launched by the Canadian government and recognized throughout North America; Green Seal, similar to EcoLogo but used more in the U.S. market; FSC, which certifies responsible forest management; PCF, which certifies that paper has been manufactured without chlorine compounds; and Green‑e, a certification that identifies products that promote renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. The Bureau de normalisation du Québec (BNQ) has recently announced a new certification, RECYC Eco, that identifies products made from recycled materials. This of course also applies to Cascades products! These are some of our industry’s certifications, but every industry has its own certifications with their own visual identifiers. The food industry has so many it’s difficult to know what they all mean, even for those of us who follow certifications closely. I can’t imagine what it’s like for consumers!

 

This is why I’d like to know more about your purchasing habits:

  • When you shop, do you look for certification logos on the products?
  • Do you think that certification is a true guarantee of a company’s commitment to a certain issue, like the environment, for example?
  • Do you know the certification criteria for those certifications you trust?
  • Do you read the packaging of the products you buy?
  • Do you think there are too many or not enough certifications?
  • Of any product from any sector, which certification logo do you trust the most?
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About the Author
Marie-Eve Chapdelaine

Marie-Eve Chapdelaine is a specialist in sustainable development and has worked at Cascades since 2006. She is particularly interested in building public awareness and changing attitudes regarding social and environmental issues. In her role at Cascades, Marie-Eve uses her expertise to inform, guide and support her colleagues in maintaining the company’s leadership position in sustainable development. She has earned an undergraduate degree in public communications from Université Laval and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in environment at Université de Sherbrooke. “I’ve always been interested in environmental causes, but also in social issues. Sustainable development allows me to pursue both interests at once. What better than to work at Cascades, a beacon in this area, and a company that is open to implementing all sorts of measures to improve performance and maintain its leadership position.” Because she believes every citizen needs to take responsibility for improving their living environment, Marie-Eve is also socially engaged, sitting on several community boards and committees.

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1 comment
  1. Lisa at 9:51 pm

    When you shop, do you look for certification logos on the products?
    Generally, No. Mostly because there are so many, and many of them are meaningless.

    Do you think that certification is a true guarantee of a company’s commitment to a certain issue, like the environment, for example?
    No. Some of the certifications really are meaningless, and so there really is no guarantee of anything.

    Do you know the certification criteria for those certifications you trust?
    If I were to trust any, I would definitely know the criteria. I find that to be too much research time, so I just don’t trust any of them.

    Do you read the packaging of the products you buy?
    Mostly, yes.

    Do you think there are too many or not enough certifications?
    Too many. Right now, as you said, there is no regulation on the certifications, so anyone can make up whatever they want, and they do.

    Of any product from any sector, which certification logo do you trust the most?
    Can’t really think of any offhand.

    The one label I do tend to look for is the recycled content label. If I have a choice between a product that is made with recycled content (and the more, the better), and one that is virgin content, I will choose the recycled every time. It’s also an added bonus for any product if it is recyclable. .

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