GEN Activities


The Global Ecolabelling Network's (GEN's) evolution from 1994 to 2000 has seen the membership significantly rise and the introduction of a second category of participants - "associate members". As well, GEN has established a General Affairs Office and Secretariat that collaboratively provide operational and administrative support.

At this time, it is appropriate to elaborate on the future course of action. In this regard, a more detailed description of strategies and objectives is desirable and useful, as well as the identification and analysis of the most significant factors that have had, and/or could have a bearing on the future evolution of GEN.

The increasing globalisation of the economy, along with the peculiarities of the various countries and geographical areas, contribute to make the ecolabelling of goods and services a helpful tool for environmental management. However, a level of international co-ordination is required between the different labelling systems; this role has been assumed by GEN.

To date, GEN has implemented important initiatives and projects, such as creating and implementing: a "Code of Good Practice"; a Technical Assistance Program; bilateral mutual recognition agreements; "equivalency" studies; a data base of product certification criteria, etc.. All of these will likely undergo revision and further enhancement. These measures, along with various new projects that shall certainly arise, make GEN a dynamic organisation in constant evolution.

In late 2000, the GEN Executive Committee formulated and initiated strategies and related activities to advance both internal co-operation and external promotion and awareness. To assist in this task, a "Communications Strategy Guidance Table" has been prepared and is attached as "Appendix A" to this Plan.

In terms of international presence, a significant achievement has been the creation of a Home Page on the Internet which provides information about GEN activities, its formal participants, lists of certification criteria, etc.. This Web site is accessible from any part of the world, links the participants, and provides a point of reference for anyone interested in ecolabelling.

The number of GEN members has substantially grown, now comprising 25 ecolabelling systems, both at national and supra-national levels (EU ecolabel, Nordic Scheme) from five continents. Pro-ecolabelling non-profit organizations, that don't meet full membership criteria but desire to formally participate in GEN activities, are being accommodated through the establishment of an "associate members" category.

Another major GEN effort has been its participation in international fora addressing environmental labelling principles and practices, including in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The completion of the ISO 14020 series of standards creates a "frame of reference" that all GEN members should bear in mind.



The globalisation of markets, along with expanding levels of ecolabelling initiatives and activities around the world, have aided in increasing the relevance of and attention to ecolabelling in many countries and markets. Increasing consumer concern about the environment should result in greater demand for products that along their life cycle bear less on the environment. Ecolabelling is therefore expected to grow further in the coming years, as an instrument to encourage the manufacture of, and trade in, environmentally preferable products in the market place.

Ideally, the nature of these activities should develop within a normative framework, both at a national and preferably at an international level. As of 1999, the guiding principles articulated in the ISO 14024 Standard have been collectively adopted by GEN as a "Code of Good Practice" with which GEN members are encouraged to strive to conform/comply.

Generally speaking, GEN's main objectives were originally established as, and continue to be, to:

It is recognized that co-operation and interchange of information between the different GEN members will help evolving and existing programs develop further, and also allow for the joint elaboration of ecological criteria. Joint development of criteria has already been undertaken successfully in various countries, resulting in reduced costs and improving access to ecolabelling programs by multinational manufacturers.

Capacity building and multilateral co-operation will be further strengthened through technical assistance, including the establishment and growth of ecolabelling in countries and regions with less experience in this field.

The increasing attention that various international organizations are giving to environmental management and related instruments, also makes the presence of GEN more valuable. In this regard, GEN has become involved in the activities of various conferences, seminars, etc., to promote ecolabelling world wide.

It will ultimately be the market that significantly dictates and influences GEN requirements. GEN members, in their shared role of tenderers on the market, have to satisfy the challenges and fulfil them in terms of competitive efficiency.

Factors which shall bear most on the evolution of ecolabelling include needs to:

The process of ecolabelling criteria elaboration should be quick and nimble enough to respond to technological and scientific progress, while at the same time respecting and addressing the needs of companies whose products have already been certified.

The extension of the traditional concept of quality (i.e. usually related to the concepts of safety and functionality) to include environmental performance, should lead to an increase in the demand for environmental certification of products. This will be a challenge for the certification organizations that must develop knowledge in fields which up to now showed quite limited appreciation towards certification.

The trend towards quick development of ecolabelling and environmental certification systems around the world, and notably in less developed countries, requires intensifying capacity building initiatives and efficient co-operation among GEN participants.



The purposes for which GEN was formed and operates are exclusively charitable and educational, and include:



A. Roles and Activities

The success of GEN relates to the inputs and efforts of its members, as well as General Affairs Office and Secretariat personnel. Collectively, their broad role is to direct GEN efforts and share useful information with others (including external interested parties). To date, these participants have:

  • provided guidance on the GEN Strategic Plan, annual Work Plans, and a draft Communications Options Paper;
  • established and/or updated their internet Web sites to provide accurate and current information on their program activities and outputs;
  • responded to surveys relating to satisfaction levels concerning GEN as an organization, and relating to future strategies and directions for GEN;
  • provided quarterly articles to GENews (i.e. the GEN newsletter) on program activities, achievements and developments;
  • attended and actively participated in the GEN annual meetings and related events; and
  • contributed annual participation fees to help offset administrative and other organizational costs.

Additionally, some participants have:

  • pursued common criteria development initiatives;
  • offered to serve as "technical experts/advisors" to other countries' programs (members and non-members) to assist them in developing/advancing their ecolabelling programs; and/or
  • attended relevant non-GEN meetings, and reported on outcomes to the other GEN participants.

B. Participation Categories

This Section identifies and discusses participants that formally participate in GEN decision-making and other activities. It is noteworthy that other organizations might also participate indirectly as funders or external suppporters, or as "observers/invitees" at specific GEN events, or as potential members.

When GEN was created in 1994 and during its first six years of existence, membership was limited to ecolabelling practitioners. These members were seeking a friendly forum within which to exchange views and information, and to seek opportunities for more extensive co-operation in order to have their programs become more effective. At the 1999 Annual General Meeting (AGM), a decision was taken to revise requirements in order to open up membership to:

  • organizations which certify single product or service categories, provided they fulfill all criteria in Article V, Section 2a of the GEN By-laws; and
  • organizations which certify environmentally sustainable natural resource extraction, provided they fulfill the criteria in Article V, Section 2a,1-6 & 8-10.

At the 2000 AGM, the decision was made to suspend consideration of further revisions to "full membership" requirements, but to implement a new membership category -- "associate members". This action was deemed appropriate and worth pursuing with respect to non-profit organizations that support GEN objectives.

Consequently, this two-tier structure for GEN membership has been adopted and implemented. Nevertheless, participation categories and requirements have been identified as matters for review and potential revision on an annual basis.

C. Participants' Needs

To determine particpants' needs and opinions on membership expansion and other issues, a members survey was conducted in 1999 (with the intent to continue to conduct such surveys on a routine basis). Key survey recommendations on future priorities were that GEN should:

  • become and serve as the world's most authoritative source of information on ecolabelling;
  • facilitate greater information exchange among members (and others) through the Web site, newsletter, other means of communications, and the staging of GEN meetings;
  • promote and facilitate enhanced co-operation between programs (members and non-members), including mutual recognition (in various aspects) among members;
  • integrate ISO 14024 Guiding Principles into the GEN Code of Good Practice;
  • increase efforts in the "Technical Assistance Program" area; and
  • more actively promote ecolabelling to international audiences including the WTO, OECD, ISO, and UNEP/UNDP.

The survey and relevant discussions during the 1999 AGM also identified members' perspectives on their mutual needs. Consistent with the recommended future priorities for GEN, members' common needs were identified as:

  • compilation and provision of information from around the world;
  • extensive and timely information exchange among members (and others);
  • co-operative initiatives among and between members, including pursuit of mutual recognition arrangements;
  • technical assistance among and between members, in order to advance ecolabelling efforts and achievements; and
  • international recognition and acceptance of ecolabelling.

Note: While the category of "associate members" has been introduced at the time of the development of this Strategic Plan, no "associate members" had yet been determined and/or begun participating in GEN.



Based on the assessment of members' priorities, and the identified needs which GEN could address, objectives have been set for GEN to achieve over the next five years:



In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, a number of strategies were developed. Based upon direct feedback from the membership, the following have been identified as priority strategies for GEN:



Recognizing GEN's objectives (Section #5) and key strategies (Section #6), annual work plans/action plans should incorporate, address and expand upon the following action areas:

Capacity Building and Expansion:
Expand ecolabelling activities to new geographical areas and a broader scope of products.

  • Expand, enhance and manage the Technical Assistance Program
  • Prepare, publish, review and revise ecolabelling resource materials
  • Establish and maintain an ecolabelling resource bank
  • Invite potential members and associates to GEN meetings and events

Internal Communications and Relations:
Information exchange mechanisms exist and are utilized. Co-operation between ecolabelling entities is pursued.

  • Develop, supplement, revise and enhance information exchange mechanisms
  • Promote and facilitate/aid in enhanced co-operation between participants
  • Facilitate joint development of new and revision of existing criteria

Promotion and Awareness:

A. Promote ecolabelling as a valuable environmental policy and marketing tool.

  • Maintain and enhance a GEN Web site with information on GEN initiatives, member programs and product criteria
  • Produce, record and distribute GEN news on a regular basis
  • Plan and stage work shops and seminars on the benefits of ecolabelling
  • Implement an international communications/promotion plan, and represent ecolabelling in international fora accordingly

B. Gain international, multi-sectoral recognition of and support for ecolabelling as a tool in improving market competitiveness and continuous environmental improvement.

  • Promote ecolabelling as a policy and/or environmental management tool to public and private sector audiences, including industry.




The aim of this Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) Strategic Plan is to establish a framework of direction and action within which the GEN can evolve during the five year period from 2001 to 2005.

The elaboration of this Strategic Plan is based upon the experience gained during GEN's first six years of existence, and upon the environment in which both the organisation and its activities should take place over the next five years.

Obviously, this document will be subject to updating and revision, depending upon the fulfilment of objectives, the changing nature of the participants and their needs, and the evolution of ecolabelling in general. However, this Plan should serve as the structure and reference for annual Work Plans to be established in the future.

It is expected that this Plan will contribute to the ongoing improvement of GEN, allowing it to provide effective support to its members and others who are involved and/or interested in ecolabelling.