Eco-labels are affixed to products that pass eco-friendly criteria laid down by government, association or standards certification bodies. The criteria utilise extensive research based on the product's life cycle impact on the environment.
Examples of eco-labels include the Japanese Eco Mark, International Energy Star, USA Green Seal and UK BREEAM.
B. Main Features
Eco-labels differ from green symbols and environmental claims in that the latter are unverified and created by the manufacture or service provider. Products awarded an eco-label have been assessed and verified by an independent third body and are guaranteed to meet certain environmental performance requirements.
Eco-labels may focus on certain environmental aspects of the product, eg energy consumption, water use, source of timber, etc, or they may encompass the multiple environmental aspects, eg BREEAM, Blue Angel, etc.
Eco-labels are usually funded and backed by the national government, but administered by an independent body. Compliance with eco-label requirements is voluntary, but offers industry a competitive advantage both domestically and internationally, as well as demonstrating good environmental performance. Consumers also benefit from eco-labeling schemes through education, and the ability to compare prices and environmental performance of products. Eco-labeling can have implications for trade and can influence the design and manufacture of products.
C. Case Studies and Examples
1. Blue Angel
The first eco-labeling program was introduced by Germany in 1977. Known as the Blue Angel, industry participation is voluntary. Product groups are regularly assessed to reflect technological and design developments and only those products that exceed the average are awarded the Blue Angel. Approved products are re-assessed every few years. More than 4,000 products in 71 categories are covered by the German eco-label. Since 1991, manufacturers of Blue Angel products must reclaim the product at the end of its useful life. Blue Angel criteria include: efficient use of fossil fuels, alternative products with less of an impact on the climate, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and conservation of resources.
2. Forestry Products
The Indonesian Eco-labeling Institute (LEI) promotes sustainable management of Indonesia's forests through the establishment of an eco-labeling certification system for Indonesia's forest products. Current eco-labeling certification, or certification programs being developed by LEI include: (a) forestry (natural forests, plantation forests, community-based forest management and non-timber forest products, wood-based industry), (b) chain of custody (timber tracking), (c) marine products, (d) industrial products and (e) mining products.
LEI is working with the Forest Stewardship Council to gain international recognition of its certification procedures and conduct a joint certification program.
3. Fish and Seafood
The International Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) developed eco-labels for fish and seafood that are harvested or raised in a sustainable manner.
D. Target Sectors / Stakeholders
Industry, government and consumers are vital stakeholders in any eco-labeling scheme. Government backing for eco-labeling schemes is essential. Almost all international eco-labeling schemes require government funding and support. Since eco-labels are voluntary, the support of industry is fundamental. Eco-labeling also requires consumer awareness and understanding in order for the scheme to be accepted and a success. Other key stakeholders are the scientific community, standard bodies and industry associations.
E. Scale of Operation
Eco-labels may be national (eg Japan's Eco Mark), regional (eg EU Eco-label) or international (eg International Energy Star).