EDITORIAL. Expo 2015 Milan, brands and sustainability. In search of a new paradigm, from CSR to CSV?

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Voluntary certification marks variously attributable to sustainability-in the broadest sense of the term-deserve recognition and just as much attention in our time as we await the development of a new paradigm. Some food for thought.

The voluntary marks

One can well appreciate voluntary trademarks governed by European regulations such as the ‘organic’ logo, the ‘eco-label’ on non-food consumer goods, designations attesting to the link of certain foods to traditions and territories (so-called ‘Geographical Indications,’ e.g., the PDO, PGI, TSG, and the DOCG, DOC, IGT on wines). As well as private labels, particularly those that guarantee the sustainability of seafood products (e.g., ‘Friends of The Sea,’ MSC), those related to respect for workers throughout the supply chain (SA8000), protection of the environment and local communities (e.g., UTZ, ‘Friends of Earth,’ ‘Rainforest Alliance,’), ‘fair trade. As well as international standards such as ISO 14000 (in environmental matters) and ISO 26000 (guidelines for social responsibility, a kind of framework norm).

Monitoring

And the monitoring of Consumer Associations and NGOs, in support of the Regulatory Authorities, is essential to ensure that the authentic meanings of such marks are not debased or betrayed by fraudulent activities. Denunciation, ‘name & shame,’ but also exemplary punishments are needed to prevent isolated cases from undermining consumer confidence in relevant supply chains.

Corporate Social Responsibility

However, one should not lose sight of the overall integrity of companies that sometimes employ these and other labels for the express purpose of covering up other shortcomings (so-called greenwashing). The paradigm of so-called ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’-too often abused by ‘Corporations’ responsible for grave faults, from land robbery (land grabbing) to deforestation and pollution, corruption, violation of trade union rights- therefore now appears outdated and inadequate to the legitimate expectations of conscious consumers.

The creation of shared value

Philip Kotler recently introduced the concept of CSV, ‘Creating Shared Values.’ Since these are values to be shared with communities of stakeholders as broadly as possible–tending toward universal values–attributing their ‘creation’ to a single organization does not seem realistic. We therefore prefer to decline the acronym to ‘Contributing to Shared Values,’ and invite our discerning readers to engage in valuable reflection, which may as well consider some of the issues developed around so-called B-Corps (‘Benefit-Corporations’).

(Dario Dongo)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.