In a nutshell, ethical standards are a set of principles that are created to provide guidance to a group of people or businesses to ensure that standards are being met in the conduct of their operations. Accreditation corporations are ultimately the union of businesses and non-for-profits coming together to solve some of the social and environmental issues that plague society due to over-consumption.
By displaying a certification or accreditation on a product, a company is symbolising to customers and the world that it has been endorsed and is complying with a set of ethical and/or environmental guidelines.
There is a vast range of accreditation corporations in Australia and across the globe, covering all sectors and industries, including:
- Home Goods
While the idea of a self-regulated free market is a promising one, it is important to question whether ethical standards are being met in practice and if accreditation corporations do all that they claim.
Do they actually work?
There is no doubt that placing value on sustainable and ethical standards in business and the production of goods is a noble cause. But with such a broad range of certifications on the market, do accreditation corporations actually make the world a better place?
As consumers demand social and environmental accountability from companies, the risk of greenwashing becomes more likely. According to an article titled ‘Rethinking Greenwashing: Corporate Discourse, Unethical Practice, and the Unmet Potential of Ethical Consumerism’ (Ellis Jones) ‘greenwashing’ is “the widespread practice of using advertising to falsely portray environmental responsibility” and exists “at the nexus of between commercial advertising and ethical consumerism”. In other words, opportunistic companies see ‘going green’ as a trend to capitalise on.
Some companies make claims that are outright false, while others spend far more time and money marketing themselves as ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ than actually making positive and meaningful change.
That said, the positive aspect of many accreditation corporations is that they do the hard work of determining claims for the end consumer by providing an independent marker and proving that a company is meeting set standards and guidelines.
What can they do for brands?
In theory these accreditation corporations can verify that an organisation is ethical or sustainable through an independent assessment of its procedures and systems. By endorsing a particular company or organisation, the accreditation supports a brand’s reputation and clearly identifies that consumers can trust that brand. For brands this means that they can quickly establish a reputation and be seen in a favourable light by consumers. Having an ethical certification demonstrates transparency and alludes to a company’s broader values. According to a survey by CHOICE, 70% of consumers are interested in ethical products and claims. A 2019 GlobeScan study revealed that 76% of respondents viewed a brand more favourably if it carried a Fairtrade label.
A certification on the label of a product is also a valuable tool for shoppers, allowing them to quickly identify where they want to spend their money to support practices that they believe in. By getting accreditation a brand instantly connects with conscious consumers who make a split second decision based on these cues and ultimately benefit the bottom line.
These certifications can be an effective tool for brands that truly want to transition to sustainable and ethical mode of business moving forward. Accreditation corporations provide guidelines and practical solutions for brands and businesses, giving them the opportunity to comply and transform systems and operations moving forward.
So, who are some of the accreditations corporations that exist locally and beyond and how can your brand become certified?
1. Ethical Clothing Australia
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) works collaboratively with local textiles, clothing and footwear businesses to ensure that the entire supply chain of a brand is fair and equitable, meaning that workers are paid appropriately, that working conditions are safe and that businesses comply with workplace laws.
In order to be accredited by ECA, a brand must be able to show that products are made locally in Australia. The business will be audited in the process and must follow guidelines and complete documentation. There is a fee of $320 AUD and upward, calculated based on the size of the businesses manufacturing operations.
2. Choose Cruelty Free
Choose Cruelty Free (CCF) is another independent Australian non-for-profit that has been campaigning to end animal testing on cosmetics, personal care and other household products since 1993. The primary focus of CCF is advocating for animal welfare.
To apply for accreditation brands must fulfil eligibility requirements (for example sell products to Australian consumers and have an ABN, etc.) and comply with a specific cruelty-free ethos. The CCF than requires a one-off administrative fee of $100 AUD to cover costs.
3.Certified B Corporations
Certified B Corporations (B Corps) are a global network of standards, policies and tools for businesses. The certification is considered to be ‘holistic’ in that it encourages brands and businesses to meet standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability. The core objective is to balance profit with purpose and for brands to not only minimise harm but to also make a positive impact in the broader community and environment.
According to Media Week, B Corp certifications are growing in popularity in Australia, particularly in privately held small and medium-sized businesses. In order to become a B Corp in Australia a company must meet a legal requirement by amending its company constitution.
Seeking accreditation can be a concrete way for brands to prove that they are meeting ethical and environmental standards. By certifying a product a brand is signifying to the world that it is compliant with regulations and values transparency and corporate accountability. By learning more about accreditation corporations that exist locally in Australia and around the globe, businesses can better understand the process of accreditation and make empowered choices in their sustainability journey.
Visit YTAO to register as an ethical brand or as a brand that wants to become ethical.