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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: