Certification Systems and Standards

A number of certification systems have emerged in recent decades to identify products or services with certain environmental or social attributes, assist in auditing compliance with environmental or resource management standards, and to inform consumers about different aspects of the products they consume (Dilling and Farhar, 2007; NRC, 2010d). In the context of climate change, certification systems and standards are sets of rules and procedures that are intended to ensure that sellers of credits are following steps that ensure that CO2 emissions are actually being reduced (see Chapter 17). Certification systems typically span a product's entire supply chain, from source materials or activities to end consumer. Performance standards are frequently set and monitored by third-party certifiers, and the "label" is typically the indicator of compliance with the standards of the system.

Natural resource certification schemes, many of which originated in the forestry sector, have inspired use in fisheries, tourism, some crop production, and park management (Auld et al., 2008; Conroy, 2006). Variants are also used in the health and building sectors and in even more complicated supply chains associated with other markets. Certification schemes are increasingly being used to address climate change issues, especially issues related to energy use, land use, and green infrastructure, as well as broader sustainability issues (Auld et al., 2008; Vine et al., 2001). With such a diversification and proliferation of certification systems and standards, credibility, equitability, usability, and unintended consequences have become important challenges. These can all be evaluated through scientific research efforts (NRC, 2010d; Oldenburg et al., 2009). For example, research will be needed to improve understanding and analysis of the credibility and effectiveness of specific approaches, including positive and negative unintended consequences. Analysis in this domain, as with many of the others discussed in this chapter, will require integrative and interdisciplinary approaches that span a range of scientific disciplines and also require input from decision makers.

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