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Researchers reveal limited scope of corporate social and environmental issues

You want chocolate. You scan the market shelf for a bar with a Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certification because you don't want your indulgence to drive labor abuse and deforestation. It's the right thing to do, right? But buying ethically sourced products is not as straightforward as it might seem, according to Stanford researchers who undertook the first large-scale analysis of sustainable sourcing practices. While more than half of the global companies surveyed apply sustainability practices somewhere in their supply chain, according to the study, these efforts tend to have a much more limited reach than consumers might imagine given media attention to the issue and the proliferation of sustainable product labeling. The researchers analyzed 449 publicly listed companies in the food, textile and wood-products sectors and found about half use some form of sustainable sourcing practice ranging from third-party certification of production standards to environmental training for suppliers.

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