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World Ecolabel Day: A move towards clarity and transparency for conscious consumers

Today is the first World Ecolabel Day! An initiative of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), World Ecolabel Day allows the role of ecolabels to be recognised and celebrated and offers promotion of the products and services with ecolabels which help to protect consumers and the planet.

In this blog, our Sustainable Consumption Manager, Naomi Scott-Mearns, outlines why ecolabels have an essential role to play in giving consumers the power to make a difference to the future of our planet.

Making sustainable choices

In a world where we are becoming increasingly aware of the of the destructive impact our consumption habits are having on the planet, there is a growing demand for sourcing products responsibly.

Many consumers are no longer satisfied with value for money. Unilever research in 2017 revealed that one third now actively search for products that are ‘doing social or environmental good’. But being a consciousness consumer is not always as straightforward as it should be. With competing brands vying for our attention, it is often hard to make an informed decision on which products and services are genuinely ‘sustainable’.

This is why work by Consumers International, our members and partners, to reduce the confusion around sustainability by ensuring that producers, retailers and policymakers do all they can to make products safe, durable and resource-efficient, is so important.


What is an ecolabel?

By definition, ecolabelling is a ‘voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labelling’ that identifies products and services that are proven to be environmentally preferable.
Detailed product labelling should, in theory, provide consumers with clarity when making purchasing decisions, but practices such as ‘greenwashing’ are using consumer demand for sustainability as a means of marketing products as environmentally friendly, when there is little substance behind the claim.

This is where ecolabels have great value – a type 1 ecolabel provides independent third-party verification behind an environmental sustainability claim, ensuring that the products are not damaging to the environment.

Type 1 ecolabels consider the whole life cycle of a product: from its inception, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.

The Type 1 Green Product Mark ecolabel from TUV Rheinland is a good example of how ecolabels can indicate to consumers that products with this label have less environmental impact, than products without the Green Product Mark. For a product to be certified to the Green Product Mark, there must be alignment to three environmental pillars of stewardship:
- Prevention of all forms of environmental pollution (light, noise, air,      water, chemical)
- Sustainable use of natural resources
- Climate change mitigation through greenhouse gas reduction in line    with international standards (i.e. Paris Agreement)

The EU Ecolabel, which BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, have been contributing to since 1992, is another example of a widely used ecolabel that helps to guide consumers in terms of which products and services can be trusted when it comes to making greener and more sustainable choices.

Our work with Ecolabels

Consumers International co-leads the

Consumer Information Programme under the One Planet Network. The One Planet Network is the network of the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, working together to achieve Goal 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Consumer Information Programme has a working group on ecolabels led by the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) and the Advance SCP Project (funded by BMUB through IKI), implemented by GIZ Thailand. The aim of the working group is to share knowledge and build capacity on type I ecolabels especially in developing countries where there needs to be education to encourage the implementation of ecolabels.

By working together with our members, partners and other actors contributing to the One Planet Network, we are confident that we can use our shared expertise and knowledge to promote the importance of providing clear, transparent and trustworthy labelling. Consumers across the globe can then use this platform to contribute to a brighter and more sustainable future.

You can find out more about the Consumer Information Programme and the work on ecolabels by contacting our Sustainable Consumption Manager, Naomi Scott-Mearns. She is Consumers International’s co-lead representative to the One Planet network and coordinates all the workstreams.