The world-wide proliferation of 'eco labels' is testament to the utility of third party certification.
• Given the often complex data that they are based upon, labels provide simple confirmation for non-experts that products bearing a label meet with a range of environmental standards.
• Through encouraging consumer awareness, labels can exert a significant beneficial impact upon the market in environmentally preferential products and materials.
• Though there are many certificates, relatively few relate to building products and materials. Labels that include construction usually do so as one of many categories.
• Ecolabels, though mostly having developed nationally, can apply internationally. Hence some North American labels might be in use in Europe - and vice-versa. Other labels have been developed specifically for international application - the FSC label is a good example.
• ISO 14024 Type I ecolabels continue to be uncommon in the UK where the BRE's Green Guide to Specification accepts certification only from the BRE's own Eco Profiling programme
Types of ecolabel
1 Public, multi-criteria ecolabels (Type I, ISO 14024)
A 'Type I' label is a third party assessment of a product based on a number of criteria / issues involved in the environmental impact of a product or material throughout its life cycle. These labels are the ones most used by
'Type I environmental labelling' is defined by ISO as: 'a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party programme that awards a license which authorises the use of environmental labels on products indicating overall environmental preferability of a product within a particular product category based on life cycle considerations.'
Type I labelling is in use today in many parts of the world. Ecolabelling programmes that meet the requirements of ISO 14024 include:
• The European Ecolabel: ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/
• The Nordic Swan, Scandinavia: www.svanen.se/en/
• The Blue Angel (Blauer Engel), Germany: https://www.blauer-engel.de/en/our-label-environment
• Umweltzeichen, Austria: www.umweltzeichen.at
• Ecomark, Japan: www.ecomark.jp/english/
• EcoLogo, Canada: http://bit.ly/1gDbu4p
Key guiding principles of Type I labels:
• A third party sets the criteria and grants licence to use the label
• Criteria are set to enable products to be distinguished by measurable environmental impact(s).
• Consistent with the requirements of ISO 14020
• Criteria are set with reference to product life cycle
• Transparent process
• A product's fitness for purpose and general performance are considered
• Certificate subject to regular review
2 Public, single-issue labels
Relate to one particular environmental issue eg energy or carbon emissions
Three types of label:
1 'Pass or fail' type label linked to a specific issue. The product either meets with the standard or doesn't. Eg:
• EU Energy Star labelling the energy efficiency of office equipment: www.eu-energystar.org/en/index.html
2 'Graded' labels. Products are graded according to their environmental performance on the issue in question. Eg :
• EU 'Energy label' which grades white goods according to their energy efficiency from A++ down to G: www.energylabels.org.uk/eulabel.html
3 Statement of performance. The label is non-judgemental but illustrates the measure of the issue of concern. Eg:
• Carbon Reduction Label records a products carbon footprint: www.carbon-label.com
3 Private labels
Run by NGOs, industry groups or stakeholders.
• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): www.fsc-uk.org/
• British Allergy Foundation Seal of Approval : www.allergyuk.org
• CertiPUR - foam block manufacturers' label: www.europur.com/index.php?page=certipur