The controversy over the Smart Choices program has me thinking about consumers' growing interest knowing more about their food and the people involved in producing and selling it. This has created an exploding number of rating systems and certifications from the grand-daddy of them all, kosher certification, through labor certifications, organic certifications, fair trade certifications, environmental certifications, animal welfare certifications, and so on. This all on top of the variety of local, state, and federal regulatory schemes with which businesses are supposed to comply.
Today I learned about two interesting programs which attempt to go beyond the welter of fairly narrow "single issue," if you will, certifications to attempt more comprehensive looks at corporate behavior. The Good Guide works from the level of individual consumer products, but beyond narrow issues of health and nutrition it purports to evaluate manufacturers on a wide variety of social and environmental factors. The B Corporation works from the corporate level, and has what I would call a governance focus.
This is a fascinating area of development, and it will be interesting to see if any of these efforts gains sufficient traction to be a meaningful force for change -- approaching the mind share of the "Good Housekeeping Seal." (I wonder if that is meaningful anymore? I remember hearing it as a child, but not recently.)
My own guess is that none of these efforts will penetrate the fog of constant consumer marketing and provide enough consumer market muscle to be worth much, thoough I think a few of the "single-issue" certifications will gain traction with consumers passionate about those issues. The rest, especially the broader ones, will fade out, with the possible exception of the "local" movement. More on that later...