Certification Labels Explained

Banana With FairTrade Sticker.
- Bethan U.
You may not know it, but you are very powerful whenever you spend money. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying a new car, a phone plan, or a bar of chocolate, spending money is like signing a voting slip; you’re voting to keep a company afloat and to continue doing what they’re doing.

Most of the time when we spend money, we aren’t making bank-breaking purchases (which we tend to be more thoughtful about). We’re making little daily-life purchases like groceries, clothes, toiletries, or coffee to-go. But our small, regular purchases add up. So how can we be thoughtful in these decisions? One answer is certification labels.

Certification labels are little symbols somewhere on a product’s packaging, often displayed proudly on the front. There are lots of certification labels out there (and I suspect you’re familiar with the big-name ones like Fairtrade). These labels mean that a separate, third-party group has confirmed that a product completely agrees with their stipulated standards. These standards might be to not act cruelly to animals, to not use certain ingredients, or to ensure fair pay for workers. Certification labels aren’t perfect, but they are really helpful guides for those who want to spend their money more thoughtfully.

Here’s an explanation of some certification labels worth knowing about:

  • Fairtrade certifies that a product offers a better deal to the farmers and workers involved in its production.

  • Rainforest Alliance certifies that farms, forests, and businesses have met rigorous standards to ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability.

  • Fairtrade Federation certifies that a product expands businesses for artisans and farmers as a means of alleviating poverty.

  • FSC or Forest Stewardship Council certifies that a paper product comes from responsibly managed forests, both environmentally and socially.

  • World Fair Trade Organization certifies that a product supports small business producers and their communities to fight poverty and climate change.

  • UTZ (partnered with Rainforest Alliance) certifies that sustainable agricultural standards have been met.

  • Canada Organic and USDA Organic certify that agricultural products meet stipulated requirements, such as excluding the use of certain substances.

Above all, get into the habit of reading labels on the products you buy.  Some smaller companies strive to do great and ethical things but can’t afford the annual fee of getting checked by a certification body like Fairtrade. This means that they aren’t allowed to use the Fairtrade badge, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have good business practices. Companies like this will often have an informal way of telling you (the consumer) about the good things they’re doing, so make sure you hunt through the fine print on the product to find this extra information.

Is there one or two of these issues that you care particularly about or hope to see change in our world? Why not try and find those labels whenever you’re shopping and buy that product? Vote for thoughtful businesses that you heartily agree with.

As Christians, we believe that God made this wild and wonderful world and that He gave us a duty to steward and care for each other and this planet. Certification labels are a tool that can help us do our part.

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