We have seen countless examples where a company has been hung out to dry due to malpractice deep in their supply chain (Apple, BP and Nike spring to mind). This is leading inevitably to tighter and tighter traceability systems – yesterday I met with a tissue paper manufacturer who can boast that, for certain products, if you gave them the barcode, they could tell you down to the acre of forest/plantation where that wood came from.
The driver for this comes, of course, from the brand concerned rather than from the manufacturer. Brand protection is the goalkeeper to green marketing’s £50million striker – the less glamourous, but equally important part of the team (I hope someone can add an appropriate soccer-free analogy for our US readers!).
For big corporations, such traceability is essential and can be demanded as a condition of their custom. But what about smaller companies with less buying power? The best answer is to use third party accreditation such as the Forestry Stewardship Council label for wood/paper products, Marine Stewardship Council labels for fish, or the FairTrade labels for food and other products (including gold!) These all have their limitations, and indeed their detractors, but they give some reassurance over and beyond crossing your fingers.