Organic Insights - Spring 2022
12 / Organic Insights / Spring 2022
show us your (ethical) credentials CERTIFICATION AND THE
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ETHICS OF FOOD PRODUCTION. THE COST OF A SOCIAL LICENSE TO OPERATE?
50’s has meant that businesses are increasingly responding to consumers concerns about ethical issues. All creating a perfect environment for consumers to meet producers on the ethical path – with a social license to operate granted by consumers, regulators, and government – or even by our own high standards as producers. Back in 2012, the Commonwealth Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation undertook a substantive assessment of the international opportunities and threats of ‘ethical foods’ – defined as embracing products that are ‘natural’, ‘Fairtrade’, free range’, ‘animal welfare friendly’, ‘environmentally responsible’ and ‘sustainably produced’. The ensuing report recognised organics as “the cornerstone of CERTIFYING ETHICS Consumers are seeking clear and unambiguous ethical food labelling. The Food Ethics Council in the UK points to the growing call for transparency in the supply chain that certification schemes can provide, saying that “comprehensive and well-regulated schemes that the international ethical food production and consumption movement.”
allow customers to understand exactly where their food comes from, the journey it’s taken, and the impact it has, are crucial in building trust and transparency in the food system.” The RIRDC report references the fact that ethical certification systems fall into three main categories: • Self-declared claims made by suppliers; • Suppliers that claim to meet third party established standards without audit; and • Suppliers that meet third party established standards with routine audit. It is the third category, and the cornerstone of organic certification, that provides the highest level of assurance for ethical consumers.
VERIFYING OUR VALUES, MEETING THE MARKET, OR CLEANING UP OUR ACT? As food miles increased and globalisation facilitated export trade, so did the movement to verify the provenance of food, as supply chains lengthened. This was certainly the case with organic certification, with early Standards developed as de facto export controls. Somewhere along the line, the consumer became increasingly aware and better informed of their food choices, spurred on by the Internet-age and with greater access to information, as well as mobility to travel to countries with differing standards of ‘welfare’. Hence, the ‘ethical’ food movement began with a greater knowledge of the environment, food waste, the treatment of livestock, poverty – and more recently, concerns over climate change. Consumers continue to evolve to what the Food Ethics Council in the UK terms a ‘citizen’ mindset. Ethical consumerism has increased as incomes have risen in affluent communities, with the UK, Western Europe, the USA and Canada continuing to dominate the ethical food market. Parallel to this, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement dating back to the
“The best time to have acted on climate change was over 20 years ago and the second-best time is today.” Professor Mark Howden, Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Director of the ANU’s Institute for Climate Change, Energy and Disaster Solutions - addressing the Australian Organic Conference 2022.
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