Tough questions are timely given a current trend that is perplexing to many. Just as there was a cyclical move to standards-oriented solutions that buoyed certifications in the first decade or so of the century, there is now a move in the other direction. The reasons are many, but chief among them is perceived return on investment or ROI. Particularly for some in the business community, the relative costs of implementation have not aligned with their expectations of improved sustainability.

This is perhaps not surprising given the high expectations fueled by exuberance around the relatively new tools of standards and certifications. Seasoned development professionals and supply chain managers are a bit more sanguine, realizing the folly of expecting standards – that each invest on average a few million dollars a year globally – to resolve the sustainability issues that have remained intractable even with billions of dollars in annual investments by global development agencies.