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Sustainability labelling and certification: toward an integrated legal, economic, ecological and social aproach. (SUSTAINABILITY LABELLING)


The adoption of the concept of sustainable development has led social actors to adopt various schemes in relation to product and service la-belling and certification. All these initiatives indicate diverse sys-teems itch diverging approaches. The objective of this project is to de-flop an analytical framework for assessing ecologically, economically and socially responsible labelling and certification schemes. The pro- jest will use a combined policy, legal, political and economic approach to analyse existing and relevant schemes and their compatibility with the rules of the GATT/WTO, the EU, ISO/ISO 14000, ILO and other such schemes. The project will use the comparative case study approach in order to analyse the key issues in the different schemes
The first stage of the project consisted in the analysis of the legal, institutional and organisational framework within which labelling and certification schemes operate at international and national level. A working paper was written on the research findings from the separate working papers dealing with individual international organisations. This paper aims to provide a coherent analysis of the main objectives, approaches and activities of the broad variety of relevant organisations and how these interact with each other and with sustainability labelling and certification schemes. In addition, it provides insights about the limitations, opportunities and challenges that sustainability labelling and certification schemes are facing. The second stage of the project was aimed to give an overview of the state-of-the-art concerning labelling and certification schemes that cover sustainability aspects. The overview was based on a quick scan of the total field and result in concise descriptions of each scheme according to a strict format. The main result was an inventory focused on: Environmental, social, fair trade and sustainability schemes.

A synthesis working paper was given, including conclusions about, for example, public and private involvement in such schemes, product and service groups covered by such schemes, sustainability aspects included, their geographical scope, legal embedding, open access to information, initiators of schemes, standard setting bodies, certification bodies, targeted producers and buyers. The third stage consisted in the preparation of six case studies, with the aim of analysing certain sectors in terms of sustainability content, trade aspects, North-South consequences, the requirements of good governance and those of responsible management of supply chains. A preliminary selection of case studies based on specific schemes was made at the starting of the project. During the project meeting in May 2002, we have indeed decided to focus the case studies on certain products and services instead on certain schemes. Those included: Fruit and vegetables; Textiles; Coffee; Forest products; Capture fisheries; Ecotourism.

The fourth stage consisted in analysing the cross-cutting issues in all the different case studies to see if there were lessons to be learnt about such schemes and if they could be assessed in terms of their contribution to sustainable production and consumption, as well as their relation with the international institutional, legal and organisational framework. The last stage of the project consisted in the preparation of the final book aimed at providing a conceptual and theoretical elaboration of the key issues in sustainability labelling and certification. The book is divided into four parts: a) introduction to the problem, the key concepts and the logic of sustainability labels and the inventory of sustainability labelling and certification schemes; b) the international legal and institutional context (UN, WTO, EU and the role of the private sector); c) the sectoral case studies concerning blue jeans, capture fisheries, fruit and vegetable, forest products, and eco-tourism; d) the analysis of the cross-cutting issues and the research outcomes. The major outcomes of the project, therefore, are: a) 5 working papers: An interdisciplinary framework for analysis of labelling and certification schemes; Analysis of the international legal, institutional and organisational framework; Inventory of labelling and certification schemes; Six case studies on labelling and certification; Analytical framework for assessing labelling and certification schemes (cross-cutting issues). b) Publication of books: Commercio internazionale e sviluppo sostenibile (Bologna 2003); El regimen forestal internacional: la cooperación internacional para la ordenación, conservación y desarrollo sostenible de los bosques (Madrid, forthcoming 2004); Sustainability labelling and Certification (Madrid, forthcoming 2004). c) Contributions to specialised Journals: Non-State Actors and International Law (2002); Business Strategy and the Environment (2003); Heidelberg Journal of International Law (2003); Il diritto dell' Unione Europea (2004); Schrijver, N. and Weiss, F. (eds.) The Law of Sustainable Development (2004); Agenda ONU, (2004); X. Olsthoorn and A. Wieczorek (ed.) Disciplinary review of industrial transformation (2004). d) Two high specialised workshops with members of the Advisory Committee and other experts, in May 2002 and November 2003. e) Organisations and participation at several international Congresses, seminars, and workshops (see final report).

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


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