With growing concern about the impact of production systems on the environment, a range of efforts have been made to shift both producer and consumer behavior. Ecolabelling is one approach that aims to (1) inform consumers about the environmental impact of their consumption patterns and (2) encourage producers to improve the environmental sustainability of their products and services.
At present, there are three main types of ecolabels: Type I, Type II and Type III. They are as follows:
The “classic” ecolabel that evaluates the environmental quality of a product compared with other products of comparable function. This type of ecolabel is
– designed to be consumer-friendly and informative
– based on the fulfillment of a set of criteria
– awarded by a certified third-party program
– often government supported
– criteria and categories are defined by independent experts, e.g. academic researchers, but also include input from interest groups and technical experts
– evaluation and selection requirements are available to the public
– certification is granted for a specific time period after which the product/service needs to be recertified
Type I is considered the so-called gold standard for consumer education because there is an independent certifying body. Common examples include the EU Ecolabel, the Blauer Engel, Marine Stewardships Certification, Forest Stewardship Council, and Fair Trade.
Claims by manufacturers, importers, retailers, or distributors about environmental characteristics of a product or service, e.g ‘dolphin safe’. This type of ecolabel is
– focuses on a particular quality of a product, e.g. compostable
– not independently certified
– should be verifiable (but is not always)
– can raise questions about the validity of certification when unverifiable
Voluntary declarations of the sustainability of a product or service’s entire life cycle. This type of ecolabel
– may or may not be third-party certified
– often B2B in nature
– does not certify any specific quality of a product/service
– facilitates the drawing independent conclusions about the sustainability of a product/service
- Galarraga Gallastegui, I. (2002). The use of eco‐labels: a review of the literature. European Environment, 12(6), 316-331.
- Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V.