Sustainability and ethical accreditation schemes based on membership or consultation fees have a vested interest problem.

A recent article by the Independent newspaper revealed that a ‘Red Tractor’ farm animal welfare UK accreditation scheme, had certified a farm that has been severely mistreating and abusing its pig livestock.

With recent revelations from ‘Seaspiracy’ from Netflix, revealing ‘sustainably fishing’ accreditation was a bit of a sham, we are left wondering how much accreditation for sustainability or ethical products actually means.

Where accreditation is linked to membership or consultation fees, there is a vested interest in the accreditation company aligned with its associated industry. Also where there are hundreds of variables being assessed, the very simple important outcomes can be missed, a bit like that old saying; “didn’t see the wood for the trees”, or as we used to say in hospitals “the operation and procedure were a complete success. Alas the patient died”. These mixed metaphors remind us to keep it simple and keep the focus on the priority outcomes.

I would propose that for accreditation to work, accreditation needs to severe the funding link from the aligned industry, either in consultation and accreditation fees or membership; and also ensure clarity and transparency in the outcomes you are seeking to achieve.

That position is not going to go down very well out there I know, and you would think that as a person developing an outcome framework for sustainable tourism and travel, I would be less critical, but if you think tactically and strategically, and outcomes are important, you can clearly see there is a vested interest flaw in the current funding model.
We know that the accreditation sector is “not going to bite the hand that feeds it”. So I suggest we identify other ways for accreditation to be funded.

So we ask the consumer to pay. You like it, you enjoyed it? You’d give a waiter or waitress 12 to 15% extra in a gratuity just for smiling nicely at you. How about you say “thank you ecosystem” for that lovely experience, here’s a 10% tip because I’ve not really paid the True Price (and been subsidised by environmental erosion) for that gorgeous natural experience.

Kind of makes sense doesn’t it.

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