Probably we all hear about circular economy, which is a system dedicated to eliminating waste by reusing, sharing, repairing, and recycling resources. Regarding sustainable development we need to know other definitions too; sustainable practices and certifications as well.
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To reach a climate positive behaviour (exceeding achieving carbon neutrality by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; also referred to as carbon negative) we need to think through how is that possible regarding different products, services and solutions.
Some of the biggest problem of big organizations that have been founded decades ago to help to create alliances like the European Union, but in the the early years tenders were not that important. Tenders became important, but some old structures stayed, which is why the supervision of some tenders not always worked well, which leaded to abused tenders and frauds in some countries.
Lately the European Union more and more making up for its shortcomings and invented alternative routes to be able to effectively supervise how financial supports of the winners of the tenders really reach the institutions and organizations which are in need.
Why is that so important?
To be able to achieve climate positive behaviour and prevent climate change on the long run we need to know that the different products and services supervised enough, and the different processes not implement the definition of green washing (misrepresenting something as being “green” when it’s not environmentally sound) instead of eco-friendliness.
To reach eco-friendliness we need to know the most important sustainable certifications to be able to
- promote awareness and
- encourage environmentally friendly practices.
The goal of these certifcations depending on the specific certification and the industry it pertains to; genereally they aim to promote and recognize businesses and products that adhere to
- environmentally friendly,
- socially responsible, and
- sustainable practices.
- Rainforest Alliance, and
aim to promote sustainable practices to protect natural resources, biodiversity, and ecosystems. These certifications encourage responsible management of forests, agricultural lands, and marine environments.
Energy Efficiency and Green Building
Certifications such as
- LEED and
- Energy Star
focus on promoting energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprints, and encouraging the construction and operation of environmentally friendly buildings and products.
One Central Park, Sydney, Australia:
- Designed by Jean Nouvel, this residential tower features innovative green walls, hanging gardens, and a heliostat system that directs sunlight into the park, minimizing the need for artificial lighting.
The Edge, Amsterdam, Netherlands:
- Known as one of the greenest buildings globally, The Edge is an energy-efficient office building with features such as solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and a smart lighting system that adjusts based on occupancy and daylight levels.
Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, Italy:
- This residential duo by Stefano Boeri is recognized for its extensive greenery covering the towers, providing shade, oxygen, and urban biodiversity, showcasing how vertical spaces can be used for sustainability. Read more about it here.
The Crystal, London, United Kingdom:
A sustainable events venue and office space, The Crystal uses solar power, ground-source heat pumps, and rainwater harvesting. Its design prioritizes natural light, and it has achieved high environmental certifications. It constructed to promote sustainable cities and urban environments and the client was the Siemens corporation.
Bullet Center, Seattle, USA:
The Bullitt Center, a commercial office building, aims for net-zero energy and water use. It incorporates a rooftop solar array, rainwater harvesting, composting toilets, and advanced energy-efficient systems using recycled and locally sourced materials.
Circular Economy and Product Lifecycle
- Cradle to Cradle (C2C)
evaluate products based on their entire lifecycle, encouraging manufacturers to design products with recycling and sustainability in mind.
Cradle-to-cradle (C2C) design, or regenerative design, is a biomimetic approach that mimics nature’s processes in product & system design. It views materials as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. C2C emphasizes sustainability and consideration for future generations—from one generation’s “cradle” to the next, rather than within the same generation from “birth to death.”
focus on promoting water-efficient products and practices to address water scarcity issues.
Carbon Emission Reduction
- Carbon Trust Standard
aim to recognize organizations that measure, manage, and reduce their carbon emissions, contributing to the global effort to combat climate change.
Social and Economic Sustainability
Certifications such as
- Certified B Corporation (logo)
focus on a holistic approach to business, considering social, environmental, and economic impacts. The goal is to encourage businesses to operate in a way that benefits society and the planet.
Local and global certifications
In some cases companies not just globally certified, but locally too and cooperating with charities to participate in a good case regarding sustainability.
A good example for this GreenGeeks.
- 300% Energy Match: the company work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to match their energy usage, such as servers and staff workstations by 3 times.
- For each hosting account provisioned, GreenGeeks work with a tree planting charity to help to plant trees wherever they are needed the most around the globe.
- Since 2009, GreenGeeks has been recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its commitment to sustainability.
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Organic and Fair Trade Practices
Organic and Chemical-Free Practices
The Organic certifications (e.g., USDA Organic – logo) promote farming practices that avoid synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms, aiming to reduce harm to the environment and human health.
Fair Labor Practices
- Fair Trade,
- Fair Wear Foundation, and
aim is to ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and ethical treatment of workers, particularly in industries such as agriculture and garment manufacturing.
Organic and Fair Trade certifications
Organic and fair trade certifications have the potential to directly and indirectly support the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These international development goals, established in 2000, were aimed at addressing various global challenges. With the rise of ethical consumerism in developed nations, there has been an increase in imports of socially and environmentally certified products from developing countries.
A study by Setboonsarng (2008) found that organic certification significantly contributes to
- MDG1 (poverty and hunger) and
- MDG7 (environmental sustainability)
through premium prices and improved market access.
The study suggests that to enhance the poverty-alleviating impact of this market-based development approach, public sector support is crucial.
- harmonizing standards,
- strengthening certifier capacity,
- developing infrastructure, and
- innovating alternative certification systems.
Our sustainable coffee and tea
We all like to drink our coffee or tea, so it is a real question whether sustainable certifications for coffee and tea really help the coffee and tea leaf growers?
The following certifications like Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and Organic can provide tangible benefits to coffee growers with the following sustainable practices:
Fair Trade (logo) certification ensures that coffee farmers receive fair prices for their products.
This helps improve the livelihoods of farmers by
- providing a stable income and
- reducing their vulnerability to market fluctuations.
Certifications like Fair Trade often include social premiums, which are additional funds paid to a communal fund managed by the farmers.
These funds can be used for community development projects, such as
- building schools or
- healthcare facilities.
Certifications like Rainforest Alliance and Organic require environmentally sustainable practices. This not only helps protect ecosystems but can also enhance the long-term viability of coffee farming by maintaining soil health and biodiversity.
Certification can open up new markets for coffee growers.
Many consumers in developed countries actively seek out certified coffee; having these certifications improve market access and increase demand for the coffee produced.
Knowledge and Training
Some certifications come with training programs to help farmers improve their agricultural practices. This can lead to
- increased productivity,
- better quality coffee, and
- more sustainable farming methods.
Sustainable certifications often encourage democratic decision-making within farming communities. This empowerment can lead to more inclusive and equitable distribution of benefits among community members.
What does Fair Trade and Fair Price means?
To be able to support coffee farming communities it is good to know what does Fair Trade means at all. It means Fair Prices, maybe not everyone know how is that reached exactly, but I think it is good if we all know, because somehow that is the most important above all, since Fair Price (to farmers) have the most influence regarding the prices of the coffee.
So here are sustainable practices which ensure that farmers get Fair Prices through Fair Trade.
Fair Trade Minimum Price
Fair Trade certification sets a minimum price that must be paid to farmers for their coffee.
This minimum price is intended to
- cover the costs of sustainable production and
- provide a social premium for community development.
If market prices fall below this minimum, Fair Trade ensures that farmers still receive a price that is deemed fair.
Market Price Fluctuations
Coffee prices in the global market can be volatile due to factors such as
- weather conditions,
- geopolitical events, and
- market trends.
Fair Trade aims to provide stability by offering a minimum price, protecting farmers from the impact of severe market fluctuations.
In addition to the minimum price, Fair Trade often includes a social premium, which is an additional amount paid for each pound of coffee. This premium goes into a communal fund managed by the farmers and is used for community development projects, for example education, healthcare, or infrastructure.
Quality and Specialty Coffee
In some cases, specialty or high-quality coffee may command prices above the Fair Trade minimum. The fair prices set by Fair Trade are meant to be a baseline, and farmers who produce exceptional coffee can receive higher prices in the open market or through specialty coffee channels.
It’s important to note that obtaining and maintaining Fair Trade certification involves costs for both producers and buyers. These costs are intended to support the infrastructure needed to maintain fair, ethical and sustainable practices.
Learn more about the Role and Impact of Voluntary Carbon Market here.