by Tim Wilson, September 6, 2011
SD released a new report this morning, Naked Extortion? Environmental NGOs imposing [in]voluntary regulations on business and consumers, looking at the role that environmental NGOs are playing in forcing businesses to adopt ‘voluntary’ certification standards.
There’s nothing wrong with certification schemes like the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil if adopted voluntarily. SD may have differences with the schemes and whether the actually achieve their objectives environmentally, socially or economically. But that is a difference of opinion.
It is entirely different when business and consumers are forced to adopt them. And that appears to be what is occurring. Suspicions that environmental groups collude in a game of ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ to push business and consumers into adopting ‘voluntary’ certification standards has traditionally been speculative. The report shows they’re now gloating about it:
‘Greenpeace is willing to play the role of good cop or bad cop in partnership with organisations. Its reputation for radical actions positions it particularly well to play the bad cop that can drive organisations to partner with groups that seem more middle-of-the-road in orientation’ (Greenpeace head of research, Kert Davies).
Basically in response to Greenpeace’s ‘Bad Cop’ routine, ‘Good Cop’ groups, like the World Wildlife Fund, offer adoption of ‘voluntary’ certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to get the ‘Bad Cops’ off their back.
Advocates of these ‘voluntary’ standards are now arguing they should be regulated for, through:
‘… governments and international organisations in consumer and producer countries should establish complementary mechanisms to create an enabling environment … [such as] national legislation [and] public procurement policies … [as well as] regulatory waivers in exchange for certification’ (WWF review).
We are already seeing this strategy employed in Australia through the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil) Bill and the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill.
These are not encouraging signs if you support market-based poverty alleviation.