One way to know that the products you are buying meet certain minimal ethical standards is to check if they have a reputable certification label – such as one of the ones below. This means you can trust the certifying body to have done the leg work for you, in vetting the product.
Note: Some products are not labelled, but can still be ethically produced. The cost of some certifications can be prohibitive, for example, which is why many smaller companies may not pursue it, although they may effectively meet all of the same criteria. So don’t limit yourself to only certified products; just know you may need to do some extra research. And don’t be shy to contact the company directly to ask for the information you need. (For more tips on how to be a critical label reader, and spot greenwashing, read this).
Beauty Without Cruelty is a South African label for products that have not been tested on animals, the ingredients have not been tested on animals, and parent companies, subsidiaries or suppliers do not test on animals.
The Biodiversity Wine Initiative label was created by World Wildlife Fund and the SA wine industry, and is used by farms who can demonstrate farming practices that promote local biodiversity, and minimise the loss of threatened natural habitat in the Cape winelands.
ECOCERT was the first certification body to develop standards for “natural and organic cosmetics”. The label shows a product is derived from renewable resources, manufactured by environmentally friendly processes, and contains no GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey etc). The products also have a minimum requirement for plant-based ingredients and the weight of ingredients derived from organic farming.
Fairtrade is a global movement that believes in human rights and the protection of the environment for our future generations. These values were distilled into a certification system that now works with over 1,5 million farmers and workers globally who grow the products we use every day e.g. coffee, tea, fruit, cocoa and sugar. Compliance with the Fairtrade label requires fair labour practices, fair prices for products, and audits of the whole supply chain. It also encourages sustainable production and environmental protection, and invests in community projects.
LACON abides by the regulations laid down by the legislative authority for the production, processing and labelling of organic products. This includes maintaining fertile soil through methods such as crop rotation and animal husbandry well-suited to local conditions, and promoting animal welfare through methods such as regular access to open land or pastures, feeding of organic feed, animal husbandry practices that strengthen natural immunity, and the use of herbal and homeopathic medicines.
For a cosmetic or household product to qualify for the Leaping Bunny label, the company producing it must be able to show that it does not and shall not conduct, commission, or be party for animal testing, of either the product or any of its ingredients or formulations. In addition, the company may not purchase any ingredient, formulation or product from a third party supplier that has conducted, commissioned or been party to animal testing.
The Cruelty Free label is managed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Unlike other labels, no audits are carried out, and inclusion on PETA’s list relies on voluntary compliance. Companies can use the logo if they “complete a short questionnaire and sign a statement of assurance verifying that they do not conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future.” The expectation is that a company will not lie, in order to maintain it’s reputation.
PhytoTrade Africa’s role is to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in Southern Africa by developing an industry that is not only economically successful but also ethical and sustainable. They do this in three key ways: product development, market development and supply chain development.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification is an assurance to buyers of palm oil products that the standard of production is sustainable. All organisations in the supply chain that use RSPO certified sustainable oil products are audited to prevent overselling and mixing palm oil with conventional (or non-sustainable) oil palm products.
The RSPO has been criticised as being weak. Read more about this here.
The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was established to improve the sustainability of the local seafood industry. Part of this initiative is to educate consumers in understanding their sustainable seafood options, which they do with some easy-to-use tools that categorise seafood species according to a ‘traffic light’ system of green (the most sustainable seafood choice), orange (there are concerns about the sustainability of this species, so think twice), and red (this species is under threat, and is illegal to sell in SA).
To find out if a fish is a ‘green’ option, you can use FishMS. Simply type the name of the fish or other seafood you’re interested in into a text message and send it to 079-499-8795 to receive information on the status of that species.
Soil Association Certification is an independent certification body. It carries out inspections and awards organic certification to farms and businesses that meet the standards of the Soil Association. This certification business is the UK’s oldest and most experienced, and licenses over 70% of the organic food on sale in the UK.
In 2006 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published guidance designed to improve food labelling for vegetarians, in consultation with the Vegetarian Society. The label provides “official” criteria for the use of the term: “The term ‘vegetarian’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of products derived from animals that have died, have been slaughtered, or animals that die as a result of being eaten. Animals means farmed, wild or domestic animals, including for example, livestock poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea, amphibians, tunicates, echinoderms, molluscs and insects.”
In 2006 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published guidance designed to improve food labelling for vegns, in consultation with the Vegan Society. The label provides “official” criteria for the use of the term: “The term ‘vegan’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of animals or animal products (including products from living animals).”