Eco-labels and Green Stickers are labeling systems for food and consumer products. Ecolabels are voluntary, but green stickers are mandated by law; for example, in North America major appliances and automobiles use Energy Star. They are a form of sustainability measurement directed at consumers, intended to make it easy to take environmental concerns into account when shopping. Some labels quantify pollution or energy consumption by way of index scores or units of measurement, while others assert compliance with a set of practices or minimum requirements for sustainability or reduction of harm to the environment. Many ecolabels are focused on minimising the negative ecological impacts of primary production or resource extraction in a given sector or commodity through a set of good practices that are captured in a sustainability standard. Through a verification process, usually referred to as "certification", a farm, forest, fishery, orbel.

The last few years have seen two key trends in the ecolabels space. There is an explosion in the numbers of different ecolabelling programs across the world and across business sectors and secondly the proliferation of umbrella labeling programs.

Ecolabelling systems exist for both food and consumer products. Both systems were started by NGOs, since then the European Union have developed legislation for conduct of ecolabelling and also have created their own ecolabels, one for food and one for consumer products. At least for food, the ecolabel is nearly identical with the common NGO definition of the rules for ecolabelling. Label trust is an issue for consumers because as manufacturers and manufacturing associations have set up "rubber stamp" labels to greenwash their products with fake ecolabels. High trust levels can be created when ecolabels apply for Governmental recognition as formal Certification Marks [recognized by logos or names with 'CTM', CM or 'CertTM']. Typically this means schemes approved as a Certification Mark, have had the Government Department responsible declare that the scheme has a standard and certifies that they are 'Competent to Certify'. The highest trust levels would be a government recognized certification mark that was also compliant with key ISO standards especially ISO 14024- Type 1 Ecolabels that undertake ISO 14040 compliant life cycle analysis as part of their assessment.

ISO Participation

The last few years have seen two key trends in the ecolabels space. There is an explosion in the numbers of different ecolabelling programs across the world and across business sectors and secondly the proliferation of umbrella labeling programs. The International Organization for Standardization ISO has created standards for labeling practices within the ISO 14000 schema. ISO 14020 to 14025 series deals with environmental labels and declarations. ISO proposed three categories of environmental labels according to the aspects covered and the rigor required to award the seal: type I in ISO 14024; type II in ISO 14021; and type III in ISO 14025. Additionally, a different category called “Type I – like” is present in the literature, which represents environmental labels focused on just one environmental or social aspect; these labels have been launched by independent organizations.[1]

Ecolabeling innovation cycle

There is a close relationship between the ecolabeling process and the eco-innovation because it promotes the emergence of new green products and it improves the organizations environmental management strategy. Moreover, ecolabeling process is a "cyclical eco-innovation process in which consumers, firms, governments and institutions interact. Its final purpose is to contribute to the development of sustainable and ecological ways of production and consumption. In this process, consumers’ environmental expectations are met; firms increase their created and captured value and enhance their sustainability, and governments and institutions foster cleaner production and consumption. Finally, this process is tangible in the products through the awarding of ecolabels, which are visibly displayed on goods and services".[2]

Environmental governance

Consumer desires for sustainable consumption is driving the global marketplace with desire to regulate product production. The globalization of economies is shifting control of sustainability away from traditional command and control measures imposed by governments towards market governance which is a self-regulatory new environmental policy instrument, ecolabelling.[3][4]

The only ecolabel that takes into consideration legal and infrastructural limitations is [5] which is a startup in Greece approved by the University of Wales and which has the Support of the Dutch Embassy and the Orange Grove. It is a certification programme with the intention to increase owner, staff, suppliers and stakeholder’s awareness with the intention to motivate them for an eco-friendly action towards a sustainable holiday and future for all of us in the long run and through which expenses can be minimized.

Eco-labeling standardization is a new form of regulation which is voluntary in nature, but impose upon large companies market forces in order to harmonize production of goods and services with stronger ecological practices. Recently, it has turned into a new form of non-state authority at both national and international levels. This idea of entrepreneurial democracy[6] based on the success of the ISO 14000 standards on the management of environmental quality and the ISO 9000 standards on quality production control. Once an industry sector decides to get this certification, it has to provide evidences of documented proof of compliance required. In terms of ISO 14042 standard, it is obligatorily for all applicants to respect environmental legislation and related legislation; breaching of any laws may result in licensing suspension.

Sustainable Initiatives

During the UN Earth Summit[7] Conference in 1992, an international consensus was generated to integrate environmental issues into manufacturing procedures. The idea was to manipulate consumption patterns in order to achieve sustainable development. The result of this is as follows.

Currently in the developed world: Eco-labels and green stickers have evolved to play a vital role. They provide a verifiable link between products and informed consumer wishes. This approach applies market pressure on industries to minimize their environmental impact; this is evidenced by growth in population of informed consumers. Marketing strategists are responding with Green Certifications and its abuse, Greenwashing.

Currently in the developing world: First consumers became concerned about the quality, safety and environmental sustainability of food and supported demand for green foods, then focused on the environmental effects of agriculture and globalization of food production, which led to the exposure of globally controlled food regimes. Consumer advocate groups responded with a call for [Alternative Food Networks].[8] This gives a new dimension to consumer demands and corporate competitiveness. Australian Consumer Association CHOICE[9] confronted corporate interests with their concerns about growing interests in green consumption, food production, use of pesticides, organic production, and genetic modification, etc...


Green Stickers on consumer goods have been evolving since the 1970s. The main drivers have been energy and fuel consumption. These stickers first started appearing on major appliances after government agencies in the United States and Canada legislated their requirement. Manufacturers are also required to meet minimum standards of energy use. The automobile industry in North America is required to meet a minimum emissions standard. This led to fuel efficiency labels being placed on new automobiles sold. The major appliance manufactures were required to use standard testing practices and place clear labels on products. The International Organization for Standardization has developed standards for addressing environmental labelling with the ISO 14000 family which grew out of ISO's commitment to support the objective of sustainable development discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992[10]

Green Labelling worldwide is moving beyond traditional country borders.[11] Most of these initiatives are voluntary Eco-labels, however there is an initiative under way in North America to broaden the scope of Green Stickers to include other consumer goods.

Programs by region

Governments of many countries have environmental protection agencies. These agencies are mandated watchdogs of industry and regulate releasing chemical pollution into the environment. Some of them administer labelling standards; other set minimum requirements for manufacturers.


The Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) run by the Department of Natural Resources Canada regulates both the automobile and appliance manufacturers. EnerGuide label for vehicles found on all new passenger cars, light-duty vans, pickup trucks and special purpose vehicles not exceeding a gross vehicle weight of 3855 kg (8500 lb). The label shows the city and highway fuel consumption ratings and an estimated annual fuel cost for that particular vehicle.[12] Federal law in Canada, under Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations,requires that the EnerGuide label be placed on all new electrical appliances manufactured in or imported into Canada and that the label indicate the amount of electricity used by that appliance. This information is determined by standardized test procedures. A third-party agency verifies that an appliance meets Canada's minimum energy performance levels.[13]

United States

The Energy Star service mark is placed on energy-efficient products.

All major home appliances must meet the Appliance Standards Program set by the US Department of Energy (DOE) on cooperation with the US Federal Trade Commission.[14] Manufacturers must use standard test procedures developed by DOE to prove the energy use and efficiency of their products. Test results are printed on yellow EnergyGuide label, which manufacturers are required to display on many appliances. This label estimates how much energy the appliance uses, compares energy use of similar products, and lists approximate annual operating costs. Appliances that meet strict energy efficiency criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are eligible for the blue Energy Star label. The Energy Star label is also available on energy-efficient televisions, computers, audio visual equipment and electronics, office equipment, heating and cooling equipment, and many more products. Energy Star is also available on energy efficient homes and buildings in the United States. American automobile manufacturers are required to use certified U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy test results and cannot use any other fuel mileage results to advertise vehicle fuel efficiency. The state of California has green sticker license plates issued to OHVs is introducing green stickers[15] for all new automobiles in 2009.

European Union

The EU Ecolabel was established in 1992 by the European Commission. The EU Ecolabel helps to identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle. Recognised throughout Europe, EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label promoting environmental excellence which can be trusted. It is the only pan-European Type I official ecolabel. The EU Ecolabel is awarded according to ecological criteria agreed on by experts, industry, consumer organisations and NGOs and verified by independent third parties. The implementation of the EU Ecolabel is set through the Regulation (EC) No 66/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

Northern Europe

The Nordic swan is the official ecolabel in Nordic countries. It uses a system of standards, applications for licenses, and independent verification.


In Asia ASEAN is moving towards adopting the ISO's TC 207 environmental management system.[16] Anyone can contribute verifiable sources substantiating it's adoption and implementation by member countries as this information is not easily accessible.


A number of ecolabels operate in Australia and New Zealand mostly as separate schemes operating in one country only. Global GreenTag operates and is recognised in both countries as is GECA whereas GECNZ operates only within NZ. All 3 ecolabels are ISO 14024 compliant. GreenTag is also an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approved Certification Mark.


There are a plethora of sustainable seafood ecolabels, many conservationists feel that the increasing number of labels is further confusing consumers in regard to what seafood is sustainable. As of 2010, ecolabels that can be found on seafood include Marine Stewardship Council, Friend of the Sea, KRAV (Sweden), Naturland (Germany), Thai Quality Shrimp, Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices standard, Label Rouge (France), among still others, and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is in development. Seafood is also labeled "organic" but USDA standards for organic seafood are still in development.

There are a variety of dolphin safe labels, asserting that tuna is caught in a manner that does not harm dolphins.

Marine Stewardship Council

MSC ecolabel for certified sustainable seafood
Friend of the Sea certified for sustainable fisheries

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organisation[17] which sets a standard for sustainable fishing. Fisheries that wish to demonstrate they are well managed and sustainable against the MSC standard are assessed by a team of experts who are independent of both the fishery and the MSC. The MSC ecolabel can only be displayed on seafood products that can be traced back to a fishery that has been certified against the MSC standard.[18]

The MSC was founded in 1997 by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Unilever,[19] and became fully independent in 1999. The MSC standard is consistent with the "Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Wild Capture Fisheries" adopted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2005.[20]

As of February 2012, there are over 13,000 seafood products available with the MSC ecolabel,[21] sold in 74 countries around the world.[22] At present uptake of MSC labelled products in the UK is mixed; some of the more ethical supermarkets such as Sainsbury's source a significant number of MSC labelled seafood products,[23] whilst Tesco lags behind.

Friend of the Sea

The Friend of the Sea is an NGO founded in December 2006 to conserve marine habitat and resources by means of market incentives and specific conservation projects. It is the only scheme which certifies as sustainable, with the same seal of approval, both farmed and wild-caught products. Certified products from all continents include anchovies, caviar, clams, cuttlefish, halibut, kingfish, mackerel, mulloway, mussels, prawns, salmon, seabass, seabream, shrimps, squid, sturgeon, trout, tuna, turbot. Fishmeal, fishfeed and Omega-3 Fish oil have also been certified. Sustainable seafood, products and their origins are audited onsite by international certification bodies, against Friend of the Sea criteria. Certification bodies currently auditing against Friend of the Sea criteria are Aqa, Bureau Veritas, IFQC and SGS .

Sustainable timber

Ecolabels indicating that timber in wood-based products originates from forests that are sustainably managed in compliance with internationally recognized standards include at a global level labels by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and the Forest Stewardship Council, at regional and national levels labels by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Malaysian Timber Certification System (both internationally recognized by PEFC) or the Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia (LEI).

The timber is tracked through the supply chain to the end product, so that consumers can choose to buy sustainably harvested wood over alternatives that may be contributing to deforestation worldwide.

Energy labels

EKOenergy ecolabel for energy
Main article: Energy input labeling

Many consumer appliances have labels indicating whether or not they are energy efficient compared to similar products. Common labels include yellow EnergyGuide tags found in North America as part of the Energy Star program, European Union energy labels, and the Energy Saving Trust Recommended logo[24] administrated by the Energy Saving Trust in the United Kingdom. These labels document how much energy an appliance consumes while being used; energy input labeling documents how much energy was used to manufacture the product, an additional consideration in the full life cycle energy use of product.

Carbon emission labels are an alternative methodology for certification, examining impact on greenhouse gas emissions rather than direct energy use.

See also


  1. Prieto-Sandoval V, Alfaro Tanco JA, Mejía-Villa A, Ormazabal M, ECO-labels as a multidimensional research topic: Trends and opportunities, Journal of Cleaner Production (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.167.
  2. Prieto-Sandoval, Vanessa; Alfaro, José A.; Mejía-Villa, Andrés; Ormazabal, Marta (2016-11-01). "ECO-labels as a multidimensional research topic: Trends and opportunities". Journal of Cleaner Production. 135: 806–818. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.06.167.
  3. Jordan, A (2003). In politics, products, and markets: exploring political consumption. Somerest, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
  4. Horne,, R. E. (2009). "Limits to labels: The role of ecolabels in the assessment of product sustainability and routes to sustainable consumption". International Journal of Consumer Studies. 33: 175–182. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2009.00752.x.
  6. Lavallee, S.; Plouffe S. "The eco-label and sustainable development". The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 9 (6): 349–354. doi:10.1007/bf02979076.
  8. Smith, K.; Lawrence G.; Richards C (2010). "Supermarkets' governance of the agri-food supply chain: is the 'corporate-environmental' food regime evident in Australia". International Journal of Society of Agriculture and Food. 17 (2): 140–161.
  10. "ISO/TC 207". ISO.
  11. "Singapore Green Label to go regional".
  12. "Fuel consumption guide". Government of Canada.
  13. "Canada's Energy Efficiency Regulations". Government of Canada.
  14. "U.S. Department of Energy, Home Appliance Regulation". Federal Trade Commission USA.
  15. "California Air Resources Board,". California Air Resources Board USA.
  16. "ASEAN report on environmental labelling". ASEAN. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  17. Nonprofit Report for Marine Stewardship Council
  18. MSC standards and certification requirements — MSC
  19. WWF - Making fishing sustainable
  20. Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries. Revision 1. / Directives pour l'étiquetage écologique du poisson et des produits de...
  21. Shopping: Sustainable seafood product finder — MSC
  22. Certified fisheries on the map — MSC
  23. World Fishing - Sainsbury’s launches 100th MSC product
  24. Energy saving products

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