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Signal Corporate Social Responsibility with Third Party Certifications

June 07 Laura Ward


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It's no question that consumers are holding brands more accountable than ever for how they make their products and the kind of impact they are having in the world. 

In the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, it was found that “66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands—up 55% from 2014.” This finding was even higher for global Millenials73% of whom are who are willing to pay extra for more sustainable offerings. 

Getting certified by a third-party based on parameters that consumers care about can help communicate your brand ethics and show your commitment to offering customers transparent choice at the shelf edge.

Here are some of the most common food certifications  in North America with a short description and associated annual costs:



What is it? "B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency."

Started in: 2006

Annual cost: $500 to $50,000 USD


Certified Vegan

What is it? "A registered trademark [...] for products that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals."

Started in: 1995

Annual cost: $150 - $3000 USD


Certified Gluten Free

What is it? "The GF logo stands for the independent verification of quality, integrity, and purity of products. Products carrying the GF logo represents the unmatched reliability for meeting strict gluten-free standards."

Started in: 1974

Annual cost:$2,000 -$5,000 USD


Fair Trade International

What is it? "When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Mark it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade Standards. The Fairtrade Standards are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade."

Started in: 1988

Annual cost: €2000 - €3000 EUR.


USDA Organic

What is it? "USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible."[1]

Started in: U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification did begin in 2002.  Before those regulations went into effect, there was private certification.

Annual cost:$400 and $1,500 USD (Note: USDA “Cost Sharing Program” can save you up to 75% of the costs associated, up to $750 per year.)

Canadian Organic

What is it? "A product can be certified organic if it has been certified by an accredited certification body that it meets the Canadian Organic Standards. [...] Permitted on products with 95 per cent or more organic content."

Started in: 2009

Annual cost:$750 and $2,500 CND


Non-GMO Project Verified

What is it?  Non-GMO labeled products verify that each ingredient used is non-GMO (with a threshold of 0.9%), with a GMO being defined as "a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods"

Started in: 2009

Annual cost: $2000-$3000 USD


Whole Grains Council (100% stamp, 50% stamp, basic stamp)

What is it?  The stamp verifies how much of a products grain ingredients are whole grain.

Started in: 2002

Annual cost: $1000 - 12,000 USD


Certified Humane

What is it? "Certified Humane® Raised and Handled® label on meat, chicken, pork, eggs, pet food or dairy products means that the food comes from farms where HumaneFarm Animal Care's precise, objective standards for the humane treatment of farm animals are implemented."

Started in: 2003

Annual cost: Calculated based on size of production, see fee schedule.


OU Kosher

What is it? "Indicates that the product is Kosher (but not necessarily Kosher for Passover),contains neither dairy nor meat, nor any dairy or meat derivatives, was not made on equipment also used for making dairy products, and was not made on equipment also used for making meat products."

Started in: The OU was founded in 1898 and started certifying products as kosher in 1923.


Paleo (Certified, Approved, Friendly, Vegan)

What is it? "The Paleo Foundation was organized for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the Paleo label, while helping Paleo Diet Adherents easily identify products that met the basic tenets of the diet."

Started in: 2010

Annual cost: $1000 - $3000 USD


There are hundreds of certifications out there. Here a few others:

American Grass-fed Association

SPCA Certified

Food Alliance Certified

Rainforest Alliance

Animal Welfare Approved

Ocean Wise Recommended

Salmon Safe

Marine Stewardship Council

Certifications can seem expensive up front but can be thought of as an investment, often returned through improved product visibility, marketing, and customer trust. 

Want to go beyond the package to share the whole story of the people behind your business, your certifications, and your ingredients? Email to connect with us about the Localize on-package labeling program.

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