When is it a good idea to start a certification program?

If you read much about certification you will find a lot of criticism of social and environmental schemes, logos and claims.  Among these writers you will find that they represent a variety of opinions about the issues, many of which (in my opinion) are wrong.  These include groups and individuals that hold some of the following positions:

  • Certification is a scam that is designed to extort money from companies.
  • Certification is part of a larger plot to undermine free trade, capitalism or the like.
  • Certification is undermining the authority of national governments to run their countries.
  • There are too many certification programs and they are confusing the consumer.
  • There should be more regulation of certification by governments.
  • Competing certification programs should not be allowed.

All of these positions miss the point.  Certification programs live or die in the market.  If there is a demand, then the program survives. If there is no demand and no one gets certified then the program will go out of business.  

There is no single authority that decides whether or not a certification program can exist.  Successful certification programs have been started by companies, industry associations, government agencies, not-for profit organisations, activist organisations, charities, religious organisations and individuals.  Some serve global markets and products worth trillions of dollars/euros carry their certifications while others are small serving local or very specialized needs.

Some certifications programs are designed to reach consumers while others serve a business-to-business market.

There is no one size fits all approach to certification, nor should there be.

At its base, the principle issue in determining whether or not a new certification program is a good idea is whether or not is serves a need and if players in the field will step up and get certified.

If you are thinking about creating a new certification program I recommend that you start by asking the following questions:

  1. Is there a need for this certification program?
  2. Why would anyone want to be certified?
  3. Can the program generate enough money to keep going?

If you have good answers to these questions then you have an idea that may be worth exploring further.