The impact of standards and sustainability

Annie Sugrue is Managing Director of Solidaridad Southern Africa and a member of Solidaridad's delegation at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. At this section of the website she will blog about her Rio+20 experiences.

Kicking off Rio+20

First impressions are always important and the Rio + 20 conference is no exception. The Brazilian government has gone to a lot of effort to make spaces for all the different forums to successfully hold their events. However, distance between each event makes it time consuming to go between one and the other. So you choose your event in the morning and usually stick to it. The shuttle buses are frequent in the morning and evenings and you can usually be guaranteed to be able to get to your events and back again in the evening. 

Standards and sustainability

The corporate sustainability forum is a good place to meet with the private sector and it has been interesting to hear about some of the initiatives. I attended a talk by Daniele Giovannucci of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment COSA, which has been supported by Solidaridad where he described the work they are doing. They have developed a tool to manage the information from the many eco-labels which exist and to “take the complexity out of understanding each label.” COSA assessed each standard or label against a common set of indicators and were able to make a few conclusions from the data. The most important was that standards do indeed have an input on yields, but this varied quite widely from standard to standard and variability is huge even within standards. 


But on average, assessment of the production from standard compliant farms was 17% above average yields. Importantly there also seemed to be a strong correlation between certification and attendance at school. Speaking with Daniele later on, he said that they were going to delve deeper into understanding the various standards and their impact. It occurred to me that this might be extremely useful data to allow organisations to be able to determine which standard can achieve the most impact on any particular variable. This might also help us to understand what makes one standard more successful in one area than another, so that future standards can learn from this and develop in a way that ensures the kind of success that the standard is keen to achieve.