6. A single sustainability index for products
How do you compare the environmental impact of, say, a bottle of laundry detergent versus an LCD screen? The Sustainability Consortium, a group of 10 universities, non-profits and 80 international companies including Walmart and Coca-Cola, are creating an index that includes every step of the supply chain. The group has already released the measure it will use to evaluate its first 100 products.
Right now, a similar rating system, Good Guide, is based solely on public information. The new system would take into account “emissions, waste, labor practices, water usage and other sensitive factors that will become available only as large corporate players exert pressure on suppliers to disclose them,” says Scientific American.
Phi Beta Iota: The Sustainability Consortium, while a very good idea in principle, appears to be a standard corporate protective association. They require a minimum of $25,000 a year from non-profits and $100,000 a year from corporations. There is no provision for a) free observer status, b) public validation of the index; or c) harnessing of cognitive surplus. We have high hopes for this idea, but its ethical grounding needs a bit of work. The idea that Wal-Mart (killing the South Pacific for cheap salmon) and Coc-Cola (sucking aquifers dry) might actually be serious about this is ludicrous. So on the one hand, this is a well-intentioned badly executed scam; on the other hand, it has real potential.