After years of assessing the sustainability of others, we asked 124 leading experts to assess us.

October 10, 2014

Recently, we decided to let people turn the tables on us.

We created a feedback survey to ask tough questions and invite tough answers. We also promised to share the results, so a brief sample of what our peers and partners have to say about us is below.

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.

So, do voluntary sustainability standards have a role to play? With Partners such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and in collaboration with Wageningen University and ISEAL, COSA is investing in measuring the value a standard or certification provides compared to just having the key components such as training.

A combination of leaders from business, research, governmental and development agencies, academia, producer groups, and NGOs participated in our recent survey. This is a brief sample of what they had to say.