Guide to Eco Labeling

An eco-label a voluntary certification, usually issued by a third party, that indicates the environmental qualities of a product in some way. Eco-labels are typically awarded by third parties that have established a level of authority to discern if a product meets the set environmental standards.

Getting an eco-label is a voluntary decision that many companies choose to buy into, in order to establish trust with consumers and better market their products. There are no set rules international or otherwise, that require a green product to be certified with an eco-label. A product may stamp self-declarations on their product about being eco-friendly and may not be backed by any eco-labeling authority. With the rise in public awareness of false reports by greenwashed businesses, having a label helps make consumers more comfortable with your products.

Eco Labeling

Types of Eco Labels:

Although there are different kinds of eco labels for different products, the three most prevalent types of eco-labels are:

Single Attribute Labels

Single Attribute Labels highlight one focal characteristic of the product that is eco-friendly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a completely green product but may have one important characteristic that makes it green.

Energy saving light bulbs are a perfect example of this. They may not be made from environmentally friendly materials but their usage saves some percentage of energy (usually specified on the packaging) making the product environmentally friendly.

Multi Attribute Labels

A multi-attribute label has a collection of characteristics that makes it environmentally sound — from manufacturing to usage. For example, they may be made from eco-friendly raw materials, have no greenhouse gas emissions, have low carbon footprints, etc.

A product that has a multi-attribute label on it means that it has a number of characteristics that make it a green product.

Environmental Product Declarations

An environmental product declaration label means that data about the product regarding its environmental impact is available. If you don’t want to rely on the label alone or are curious, you can always go through the data provided.

Eco Label Programs as Defined by ISO

According to ISO Environmental Labels and Declarations, there are three types of programs that award eco labels.

Eco LabelingType I: Voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program. These entities can award licenses to authorize the use of environmental labels. These labels indicate overall environmental preferability of a product within a particular product category based on its lifecycle.

Type II: Informative environmental self-declaration claims.

Type III: Voluntary programs that provide quantified environmental data of a product, under pre-set categories of parameters. These are also based on lifecycle assessment.

Examples of Eco-Label Programs/Authorities

Since there isn’t a standard global authority that is granting eco-labels to products and services, many countries have come up with their own associations; each having its own guidelines regarding eligibility for the label.

Some of them are listed below.

  • Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (US)
  • Energy Star ® (US)
  • Eco Mark (Japan)
  • Nordic Swan (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Finland)
  • TCO Development (Sweden)
  • Blue Angel (Germany)
  • Eco Flower (EU)
  • Eco Logo Program (Canada)

While only a few eco-labeling programs are listed above, there are hundreds more. Since it doesn’t serve any purpose to have so many eco-labeling authorities, let’s hope that a more organized effort for eco-labeling shapes up in the months to come.

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