An important story was overlooked when the US Postal Service (USPS) announced in June it had achieved Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification at the Silver level for much of its Priority and Express mail packaging (including their Tyvek envelopes). Most publications (Treehugger, Green Options, LA Times and others) reported the story without offering much beyond the basics of the certification and the USPS press release. The real story centers around the tremendous complexities faced by all parties involved in achieving a credible environmental certification.
With increasing consumer interest in sustainable products and packaging, companies and suppliers are eager to do anything to offer products or services that cater to this segment of the market. The demand for such products and services and lack of any universal standards or guidelines inevitably leads to unverifiable claims from manufacturers, and even greenwashing. This fosters the need for standards and certification processes to allow people to independently assess a product or service. Obtaining a certification such as C2C can also become a core component in a company’s green marketing strategy. The success of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification program for paper and wood products is a perfect example of this marketing tool in action.