What Is Ecolabelling:
What is Ecolabelling?
"Ecolabelling" is a voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labelling that is practised around the world. An "ecolabel" is a label which identifies overall, proven environmental preference of a product or service within a specific product/service category. There are different classifications of label, as listed below.
In contrast to "green" symbols, or claim statements developed by manufacturers and service providers, the most credible labels are based on life cycle considerations; they are awarded by an impartial third-party in relation to certain products or services that are independently determined to meet transparent environmental leadership criteria.
The roots of ecolabelling can be found in the growing global concern for environmental protection on the part of governments, businesses and the public. As businesses have come to recognize that environmental concerns may be translated into a market advantage for certain products and services, various environmental declarations/claims/labels have emerged on products and services in the marketplace (e.g. natural, recyclable, eco-friendly, low energy, recycled content, etc.). While these have attracted consumers looking for ways to reduce adverse environmental impacts through their purchasing choices, they have also led to some confusion and scepticism on the part of consumers. Unproven or irrelevant claims have been branded "greenwash".
Without guiding standards and investigation by an independent third party, consumers may not be certain that a labelled product or service is a truly environmentally preferable alternative. This concern with credibility and impartiality has led to the formation of both private and public organisations providing third-party labelling.
In many instances, such labelling has taken the form of ecolabels awarded to products approved by an ecolabelling program operated at a national or regional (i.e. multi-countries) level. These internationally recognised programs form the membership of GEN.
From its beginnings in 1994, GEN has grown, in less than two decades, to embrace 27 organisations circling the globe, and stretching from Norway to New Zealand.
The International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) has identified three broad types of voluntary labels, with ecolabelling fitting under the Type I designation.
Voluntary Environmental Performance Labelling -- ISO Definitions
|TYPE I||a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program that awards a license that authorises the use of environmental labels on products indicating overall environmental preferability of a product within a particular product category based on life cycle considerations|
||informative environmental self-declaration claims|
|TYPE III||voluntary programs that provide quantified environmental data of a product, under pre-set categories of parameters set by a qualified third party and based on life cycle assessment, and verified by that or another qualified third party|
Although differing in strength and authority, the different label types have been identified by the ISO as sharing a common goal, which is:
"...through communication of verifiable and accurate information that is not misleading on environmental aspects of products and services, to encourage the demand for and supply of those products and services that cause less stress on the environment, thereby stimulating the potential for market-driven continuous environmental improvement."
ISO14024 lists the guiding principles for Type 1 ecolabels.
For more information download Introduction to Ecolabelling (PDF - 107 Kb) (Link to 2004 paper)