Some Exemplary Information Transmission Approaches

In this section, we focus on three different approaches, namely qualitative approaches by labels, self-declared environmental claims and quantitative approaches.

Qualitative Approaches

3.1.1 Eco-Labels

Addressed Issues Eco-labels according to ISO type I should consider the entire life-cycle of a product based on scientific evidence, their application is voluntary and up to the decision of the applicants. They refer to environmental issues, like energy consumption, material composition, emissions, use of dangerous substances etc. They are intended to label products with considerable less environmental impacts than the market average along the life-cycle − i.e. the “best in the class'. These last few years, environmental topics have been supplemented by the integration of social criteria into some requirements of the eco-labels, e.g. working conditions, fair-trade issues.

Institutional Issues For each product group, criteria have to be developed and fixed. The criteria development is carried out in an open participatory process, e.g. by boards, committees, panels, expert groups representing different economic and social interests (e.g. trade, industry, consumer and environmental organisations). However, the final decision on requirements has to be taken by an institution independent from manufacturers and their interests. The fulfilment of the requirements has to be proven by a third-party verification procedure. Having passed the requirements, applicants receive the allowance to use the symbol of an eco-label scheme, which is restricted to a predefined period of some years. This restriction is intended to review the requirements and to update them, if needed, taking into account new technological developments, new information and other challenges.

Target Groups Mainly private consumers.

Status Eco-labels have been in place since 1978, when the German Blue Angel became the first voluntary eco-label scheme worldwide, followed just over a decade later (1989) by the Japanese Eco-Mark. Altogether, the labelling landscape has become more and more complex, and also confusing. According to Ecolabel Index,[1] 458 eco-labels in 197 countries covering 25 product groups exist: some are applied to a vast range of product groups whereas others are restricted to a single and specific product group. Globally, providers of eco-label schemes co-operate in the “Global Ecolabelling network” (see: globalecolabelling.net/).

Examples European eco-label “EU-Flower”, German Blue Angel, Scandinavian “Nordic Swan”, Australian “Good Environmental Choice”, Japanese “Eco Mark Program”, US “Green Seal” or the “Green label Thailand”.

3.1.2 Social Labels and Standards

Addressed Issues The consideration of environmental challenges is only one challenge, but due to the increasing “length” and complexity of supply chains, to the globalisation of markets and supply or production chains, and due to pressures from stakeholders, the social features along the chain gain increasing importance. Beside company and workplace related standards like ISO 26000 and SA8000, some labels cover social issues such as ban of child labour, social rights, labour union laws, fair prices, working conditions. However, a common international standard like the ISO 14020-series does not exist.

Institutional Issues The institutional characteristics depend on the requirements label scheme, in general reliable labels are independent from business and request an independent certification of the fulfilment of their requirements.

Target Groups Mainly private consumers, but also business and public purchasers.

Status The increasing importance of social issues could be observed by the increasing number of labels dealing with this topic. The webpages of the Sustainability Compass (sustainability-compass.com/) or of the Standards Map ( standardsmap.org/) offer a broad overview on social (and sustainability) labels.

Examples “Rugmark” label, “Fairtrade” label.

3.1.3 Certificates of Conformity

Addressed Issues The issues addressed are diverse and refer to specific needs. They might document for example sustainable forestry, fishery, and agriculture. The certificates document fulfilment of specific environmental requirements, which are often based on upstream challenges during resource extraction. The right to use a certificate allows their holders to distinguish their certified products from those of competitors and might offer market opportunities by positive discrimination.

Institutional Issues The institutional characteristics depend from the requirements label scheme, in general reliable labels are independent from business and request an independent certification of the fulfilment of their requirements.

Target Groups Private consumers, but also business and public purchasers.

Status A lot of different certificates of conformity have been developed, an overview is hard to get, but there are several webpages providing some overviews,

e.g. the already mentioned ones of the Sustainability Compass, of the Standards Map or of the Ecolabelindex. The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) provides certificates for companies which fulfil a number of forestry requirements; the requirements have been elaborated by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which is an international organization with business, NGOs, trade unions and representatives of indigenous people. Applying companies need an independent verification of a certifier accredited at FSC.

Examples “FSC” (Forrest Stewardship Council) label, “MSC” (Marine Stewardship Council) label, “Rainforest Alliance” label.

  • [1] ecolabelindex.com/ (accessed March 5, 2015)
 
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