"Ecolabelling" is a voluntary method of environmental performance certification and labelling that is practised around the world. An "ecolabel" is a label which identifies overall environmental preference of a product or service within a specific product/service category based on life cycle considerations. In contrast to "green" symbols or claim statements developed by manufacturers and service providers, an ecolabel is awarded by an impartial third-party in relation to certain products or services that are independently determined to meet environmental leadership criteria.

There are many different voluntary (and mandatory) environmental performance labels and declarations. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has identified three broad types of voluntary labels, with ecolabelling fitting under the Type I designation.

Voluntary Environmental Performance Labelling -- ISO Definitions

Type I -- a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program that awards a
license that authorizes 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 II -- informative environmental self-declaration claims

Type III -- voluntary programs that provide quantified environmental data of a
product, under pre-set categories of parameters set by a qualified third
party and based on life cycle assessment, and verified by that or another
qualified third party

Further, the ISO has identified that these labels share a common goal, which is:

"...through communication of verifiable and accurate information, that is not misleading, on environmental aspects of products and services, to encourage the demand for and supply of those products and services that cause less stress on the environment, thereby stimulating the potential for market-driven continuous environmental improvement."

The roots of ecolabelling can be found in growing global concern for environmental protection on the part of governments, businesses and the public. As businesses have come to recognize that environmental concerns may be translated into a market advantage for certain products and services, various environmental declarations/claims/labels have emerged on products and with respect to services in the marketplace (e.g. natural, recyclable, eco-friendly, low energy, recycled content, etc.). While these have attracted consumers looking for ways to reduce adverse environmental impacts through their purchasing choices, they have also led to some confusion and scepticism on the part of consumers.

Without guiding standards and investigation by an independent third party, consumers may not be certain that the companies' assertions guarantee that each labelled product or service is an environmentally preferable alternative. This concern with credibility and impartiality has led to the formation of both private and public organizations providing third-party labelling. In many instances, such labelling has taken the form of ecolabels awarded to products approved by an ecolabelling program operated at a national or regional (i.e. multi-countries) level.

For further information and elaboration on ecolabelling strategies, issues and practices, consult the following references: https://gen.gr.jp/publications.html

*Introduction to Ecolabelling (July 2004)

*Global Eco-Labelling Network Discussion Paper On Enhanced Co-operation. April 1999.