18th European Forum on Eco-innovation live from Barcelona: What’s next for eco-labelling?

Guest article written by Clare Taylor

EU EcolabelDemand for green products is growing fast, accompanied by explosive growth in the number of environmental labels and schemes. Should oversight come from government, business or NGOs?

More than 95 per cent of Europeans say that protecting the environment is important, and a recent global survey found that only six per cent of consumers in Germany felt that enough sustainable products were available.

Consumer demand is accompanied by a proliferation of environmental labelling and information schemes (ELIS) which have been monitored by the OECD since the 1970s. Andrew Prag, policy analyst at the OECD, says: “With more environmental labels available than ever before, how can we make sure the consumers are connected with the greenest products?”

table ecolabellingAccording to a recent study consumers care about the source of the label and the quality of information it contains. Government labels are more likely to be trusted than corporate ones.

Yet public schemes, both voluntary and mandatory, account for less than 20 per cent of all schemes. This is partly due to the risk of trade disputes. By insisting on a mandatory, government-led scheme, authorities are likely to run afoul of the free trade principle of non-discrimination.

The most famous example is the ‘tuna-dolphin’ case, which originated with the United States’ Marine Mammal Protection Act, which imposed a ban on imports of tuna from countries that did not have a conservation program designed to protect dolphins in the tuna-fishing process. A case was brought by Mexico and others against the US. Nineteen years later, the case still rumbles on (see the latest WTO report on the case here). Open questions remain: can one country tell another what its environmental regulations should be? Do trade rules permit action to be taken against the method used to produce goods – rather than the quality of the goods themselves?

At present, there is no consensus among governments on policy responses. The worst ‘greenwashing’ offenders can be prosecuted under current trade description legislation. Governments have lately become stricter in requiring substantiation of environmental marketing claims, with the result that misleading and false claims increasingly often lead to criminal or civil fines and injunctions.

Growth in the numbers of voluntary schemes is primarily (31 per cent) due to an increase in ELIS set up by non-profit organisations on food and agricultural products. A further 18 % of increase in numbers is due to new, private ELIS which cover quantitative, life-cycle based reporting of energy and carbon. Green branding is now an integral part of marketing. However, big business adopting standards can run into trade disputes as well.

In 2013, Walmart sent a letter to fish suppliers, reminding them that wild seafood needed to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) “or equivalent”.

But no equivalent certification scheme existed, and most Alaskan salmon suppliers were using a new program called Responsible Fisheries Management, or RFM. The dispute escalated into Alaskan fishermen protesting outside of Walmart stores and a US Senate committee hearing. Eventually the matter was resolved with the help of The Sustainability Consortium, and the result was a set of eight principles that the company will use as a yardstick to evaluate alternative seafood certification programs.

Convergence on standards is evident in the forestry sector, with certification mostly carried out by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). However, Finnish pulp, paper and timber manufacturer UPM, which is the only paper company which is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, still has no less than six environmental labels – FSC and PEFC, along with German Blue Angel, Austrian EcoLabel, Nordic Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel. In addition to product eco-labelling, the company also uses a voluntary European-wide environmental management scheme.

Sami Lundgren, Director of ecolabels and reporting at UPM, said: “The widest system I have found so far and one which works at production unit level is the European voluntary EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Although EMAS is rather bureaucratic, I think it is worth the effort to provide verified and reliable information to our neighbours and customers.” EMAS is the EU voluntary scheme designed for companies and other organisations committing themselves to evaluate, manage and improve their environmental performance.

So, where next for eco-labelling? According to Antonio Mancini who monitors claims of green washing at the Italian Competition Authority: “There is a big confusion among customers due to the number of schemes and labels available. From this point of view the EU attempt to define common methodology and standards is crucial. The future direction of eco-labelling seems to be linked to an adequate development of common rules.”

On 20-21 May 2015 in Barcelona, the 18th European Forum on Eco-innovation will focus on the role of environmental labelling, management and information scheme in boosting private companies’ competitiveness. Barcelona will also host the 10th EMAS awards ceremony to recognise inspiring examples of EMAS registered organisations which have been particularly innovative in becoming greener and in reducing their environmental impact. Click here to see this year’s finalists.

Watch live both the Eco-innovation Forum and the EMAS Awards ceremony via webstreaming. For more information click here.  For press attendance and queries please contact: dc@pracsis.be + 32 (0) 476 87 99 29.

 #EcoApForum #EMASAwards @EU_ecoinno

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

EU to spend €135.5 billion in 2014 or 6.5% less than this year

Biggest London City Banks ready to move core European operations to Frankfurt or Dublin?

A new global financial crisis develops fast; who denies it?

How did Facebook fool the Commission that easily during the WhatsApp acquisition?

The EU can afford to invest trillions in support of employment

On the euro but out of it?

Turkey caught in a vicious Syrian circle bringing terror and war at home

JADE Testimonial #1: Marcello @ Enlargement

On Youth Participation: Are we active citizens?

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

EU to spend €6 billion on youth employment and training futile schemes

EU regional differences betray an unjust arrangement

World Health Organisation and young doctors: is there any place for improvement?

Summer pause gives time to rethink Eurozone’s problems

Two women threaten to tear the world apart

Imaginary Journeys Into Eternal China

MEP Cristiana Muscardini @ European Business Summit 2014: International Trade in Europe

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

Galileo funding: A ‘small’ difference of €700 million

Can Europe and the US reverse their nationalist and xenophobic drift? Is the West becoming belligerent?

The Brits are not an exception and that’s why they voted to leave

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

ECB’s first flight in Eurozone’s banking universe will be just a reconnaissance

The British “nonsense”, the relaxed Commissioner and the TTIP “chiaroscuro” at this week’s Council

MWC 2016: IoT experts fret over fragmentation

Why France, Italy and the US press Germany to accept a cheaper euro and pay for Greece

IMF: How can Eurozone avoid stagnation

High level political talks didn’t break the stalemate in Ukraine

“Airbnb and YouTube are two great examples of a crowd based capitalism”, key stakeholders outline the boundaries of the 4th Industrial Revolution in Davos

Can the EU afford to block China’s business openings to Europe by denying her the ‘market economy status’?

Trump asked Merkel to pay NATO arrears and cut down exports ignoring the EU

EU to gain the most from the agreement with Iran

Who cares about the unity of Ukraine?

Brexit: when the hubris of one man can set the UK, the EU and the entire world on fire

Hollande protects the euro from the attacks of extremists

New chapters in EU-China trade disputes

Two major EU projects falter; the Schengen Agreement now freezes and Eurozone fails to resolve the Greek enigma

“No labels for entrepreneurs!”, a young business leader from Italy cries out

Europe slammed by Turkey’s shaky Erdoğan; both playing with immigrants’ agony

Inegalitarian taxation on labour haunts Europe’s social model

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

The EU Parliament and the ECB unknowingly or unwillingly fail to protect our financial assets

ECB’s new money bonanza handed out to help the real economy or create new bubbles?

Dear China

ECB: The bastion of effective and equitable Europeanism keeps up quantitative easing

JADE President opens JADE Spring Meeting 2014

Cancer research put at risk by General Data Protection Regulation? The possible dangers of a data privacy EU mania

Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU at the Chinese Fashion Night

An entrepreneurial point-of view on tackling the migration crisis and the risks of abolishing Schengen

France and Poland to block David Cameron’s plans on immigration

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s