Companies, firms, and organizations label their products or services to share information about the quality and content of their products. This information is used as a marketing tool that encourages consumer trust and helps to differentiate similar products.
Ecolabels are a specific type of product labeling that certifies the environmental performance of a specific product or service. Specifically, ecolabels are awarded to products and services that meet specific environmental quality standards.
Such standards are voluntary and can be linked to a single attribute or multi-attribute certification. The criteria is defined by the certifying body and can include attributes like the sourcing of ingredients, the treatment of workers or the overall environmental impact. If such standards are structurally and systematically implemented, ecolabels serve as reliable and credible sources of consumer information.
When a product or service is certified, the ecolabel confirms that rigorous quality standards have been achieved. Likewise, an ecolabel serves as acknowledgement that the certified product is both more sustainable and more environmentally-friendly than other products of comparable function.
For an ecolabel to be internationally certified, the ecolabel must comply with the ISO (international organization for standardization). ISO standardized technical requirements which helps to remove trade barriers by simplifying the exchange of goods.
Once the criteria for certification has been defined, manufacturers or providers may then apply for certification. The application requires the submission of evidence substantiating compliance with the certification criteria. Oftentimes, evaluations include site inspections, sampling, and/or laboratory testing. Once the issuance criteria have been met, manufacturers or providers are permitted to use the label for their product or service for a given period of time after which they must reapply.
The development of ecolabels stems from efforts by businesses, private organizations, and governments to encourage the consumption of more environmentally-friendly products and support the use of sustainable production production practices.
Accordingly, ecolabels can be understood as instruments for promoting markets for products with specific characteristics. This works by offering potential buyers a possibility of choosing products with specific features that would otherwise be hard to identify or assess. Using those qualities as benchmarks, sellers can then mark-up the price.
At the same time, and in parallel with government policy and consumer demand, ecolabels can be used as a tool for driving sustainable innovation that benefits consumer and producer alike.
- 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.