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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Stephen Benjamin

Certification: A Systems Approach

Certification offers a wide range of stakeholders the opportunity to actively participate in changing the operational standards of commodity chains, with a number of potential benefits closely related to sustainability concerns.  Metals used in the construction industry are an example of a commodity that is not yet subject to certification.  The Eden Project has taken the lead on this issue, engaging a wide range of stakeholders with the topic of sustainability in metals and construction.  One of the key outcomes of their work has been a realisation that lessons can be learnt from other certification schemes, which provides the motivation for this dissertation.


Using a multi-case study approach, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme are examined from a system-wide perspective, providing insights into their key strengths and weaknesses.  A generic model is then proposed for the process of certification, building on and around these advantages and deficiencies.  This is refined through a final deductive analysis of organic food certification in the UK.  Further consultation with a number of stakeholders improves the validity and reliability of the final model proposed.  The report discusses how the generic structure put forth could be applied to metals in the construction industry, linking back to the initial motivation for the work.  The dissertation concludes that, whilst significant efforts must be made to avoid a number of potential pitfalls, certification schemes can provide a wealth of benefits to their stakeholders when designed and implemented effectively.