Climate change and ecolabels

A tool in the hands of every consumer, says GEN Chair

Published On: 20-Apr-2016

The United Nations expects 147 countries to sign the Paris climate agreement when it opens for signatures on Friday 22 April, says French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal.

Ms Royal, who assumed the presidency of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. talks after last year's Paris summit, also said the opening ceremony at the United Nations is expected to draw 57 heads of state - the largest turnout for any U.N. agreement.

As the leaders gather to confirm their targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the chair of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), Bjorn-Erik Lonn, pictured, says that over 50 countries and territories already have an existing tool which can help.

“Our members in many countries are actively influencing manufacturers and consumers to supply and buy products that lessen environmental impacts, including the biggest of them all which is global warming,”  says Mr Lonn.  “Last year, in countries from New Zealand to Norway, and across most continents, GEN members were responsible for licensing more than 298,000 products with proven potential to make an environmental difference.”

Ecolabels, by definition, have been established to minimise environmental impact. They do this by empowering each and every consumer to make an easy, conscious choice when purchasing a product or service by cutting through greenwash and verifying environmental performance. They also guide government procurement in many countries, and influence manufacturers to make greener products. Their increased use, says Mr Lonn, is one of the fastest ways to address the state of the environment, and it comes without a large bill or political challenges.

“GEN member ecolabelling programmes are developed under ISO standards and are already in place. We would suggest that stronger government green procurement policies should be considered as part of the suite to deliver on climate change action, along with more assistance for national programmes to develop and promote ecolabels. This is especially important in large, developing economies, as ecolabelling, once established, is largely funded through license fees paid by manufacturers that stand to benefit from gaining a competitive advantage. Some of our members are able to operate a self-funded model, while others are nested within government agencies.”

The release of greenhouse gasses is cited as the number one cause of climate change. Measurement and reduction of all hazardous substances, including CO2 and other air pollutants, is included in the published standards for most ecolabel product categories.

The largest GEN member is the China Ecolabel (CEL). This organisation estimates the combined impact of all its ecolabelled products in a one-year period has avoided emissions of 8.59 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2); 205,000 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); 482,000 tons of carbon monoxide (CO) and 64,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

There are unique environmental mechanisms built into GEN member standards;

  • They gain support from manufacturers themselves, as they are always involved in developing the standards, although they do not have the final say
  • Standards are updated regularly using leading science and lifecycle-based data, raising the bar and the environmental performance required of manufacturers
  • Ecolabel applicants are required to examine and verify the environmental performance of their supply chains
  • A clear path is required for the end-of-life disposal of products that releases as few hazardous substances as possible into the environment, including those that contribute to climate change.


More information: contact GEN Communications Advisor Michael Hooper:

Authorised by Bjorn-Erik Lonn, Chair, Global Ecolabelling Network.