Standards & Certification

How relevant are standards and certification nowadays?

Once upon a time, the state’s control of the rules and standards upon which we live our lives was undisputed. But not any longer. Today, many non-state actors have a significant deal of influence in the governance and regulation of human affairs.

Many of these efforts continue to be extremely decentered and informal but a number of them have become extremely well organised global efforts of certification.

Consider Fair Trade, for example, a certification that seeks to ensure fair labour practices for agriculture in developing countries. Products labelled Fair Trade are available in virtually any supermarket in the developed world. Or think about the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Go check the closest box of orange juice or milk that you can find. It will probably have an FSC logo. The FSC is so ubiquitous that I recently purchased an electric shaver and the paper covering the metal sections—which was about 2 x 3 cm—was FSC-certified. Even your toilet paper is likely to be certified by the FSC!

Think too about the fact that some of the most prestigious business schools signal their excellence with a ‘Triple Crown’, a combination of certifications by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).

Take a trip to your local supermarket and check the fish section. You’ll find that many options are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), which are the two biggest certifications in the fish industry (yes, there are many!).

When you’re done, feel free to grab yourself a nice cup of coffee. If you grab it at Starbucks,  you’ll find Fair certified coffee. At Costa, they will serve you coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Elsewhere, you may also find coffee certified by one of the many other coffee certifications in the market (for example, Organic, UTZ, or Bird Friendly).

And better don’t let me start on the number of standards and certifications that are involved in the production and operation of the very computer you’re using to read this article. We would be here all day!