With the plethora of competing green claims it isimperative that we develop industry specific standards. It is becomingincreasingly important for consumers and institutional buyers to know if a product or service is truly green.
Producers use ecolabels and eco-certification to validate green claims, guide green purchasing, and improve environmental performance standards. According to a 2007 USDAreport, ecolabels in organic food products and forestry practices havegrown at 20-30% per year since the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Areport titled Global Ecolabel Monitor 2010, TowardsTransparency (PDF), was produced by Ecolabel Index, the largestglobal database of ecolabels, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute. The report provides a snapshot of ecolabeltransparency, including the results of a survey of 340 ecolabels from 42 countries, conducted between Q4 2009 and Q1 2010.
The reportindicates that demand for products with ecolabels is growing, althoughconfusion about which companies are truly environmentally responsiblepersists. A 2009 UK Carbon Trust study indicated that 44% of UKconsumers want more information on what companies are doing to be green, but 70% do not feel confident about identifying which companies areenvironmentally responsible.
Several large companies andgovernment agencies have recently announced or improved their green- oreco-purchasing policies, notably Wal-Mart5, Office Depot, Mars, Dow,Dell and the US Federal Government. In order to meet their policies,these large-scale institutional purchasers need standards, detailedinformation, and proof that a product is green.
With differingcriteria as to what constitutes green, ecolabels are lacking thecredibility they require to be effective. According to a European market research study (OECD, 2006), marketing, consumer confusion andcompetition between similar schemes has caused low market penetrationfor some ecolabels.
Ecolabels and eco-certification can providean effective baseline and encourage best practice and guidelines butonly if we first develop industry specific standards.