Ecolabels and standards: an effective way to inform customers

Currently there are many ecolabels worldwide, and no evidence that they have any influence on purchasing decisions. However, they are one of the most effective ways to provide the consumer with information about every product.  

It seems to be more and more common to find ourselves looking at statements such as products and businesses are “carbon neutral”, “organic”, and “sustainable”, given in Chile and around the world there is a growing trend for businesses to make an effort to reduce their environmental impact and letting everyone know about it. Today, matters such as natural resource depletion and climate change do not seem so distant from us, and we are aware that our daily behavior can make a difference, which is the reason why we no longer just look for good quality and a good sticker price in our products, but also include environmental variables in our shopping decisions.

One of the ways businesses can let people know about their products’ environmental themes is called ecolabels. These are voluntary methods with seals that give environmental information about a given product. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), there are three major ecolabelling schemes:

Type I, consists of a seal granted by an independent third party which indicates that a product is better, environmentally speaking, than its peers. It is based on multiple criteria, and takes a life cycle focus. Some examples are NordicSwan, European Flower, and Blue Angel.

Type II or self-declaration, is any kind of environmental declaration made by the same company but not necessarily validated by a third party. Generally they deal with a single criterion. Some examples of this are “biodegradable” and the percentage of recycled content.

Type III, is a scheme that gives quantitative environmental information with a life cycle focus. The categories to be declared are defined by a third party, but no preference is indicated for one product or another; only the number of evaluated categories is given. These schemes are called Product Environmental Declarations.

Finally, there’s a fourth type which, unlike the previous three, has no associated ISO standard. This ecolabel is focused on a specific product or sector and is based on a stage in the product’s life cycle, and the certification is granted by third parties. Some examples are Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance.

Currently there are many ecolabels worldwide, and no evidence that they manage to influence shopping decisions, although they are one of the most effective ways to give consumers information about every product. The Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption seeks to educate and inform consumers. On one side, the creation of a Green Communication Guide directed at companies that are currently taking action on sustainability issues, and do not know how to communicate it. Another initiative is a study that is being carried out with the support of the United Nations Program for the Environment and which seeks to set the frame for a program of standards and sustainability ecolabels for the food and wine export sector, as a way to improve its practices.

With these initiatives we hope that Chilean businesses are not left behind in this global trend, especially exporters who face strong environmental requirements from clients and consumers around the world.

Source: El Dínamo


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