The European Eco-label is a labelling initiative that was established in 1992 and is denoted by the “flower”. It was created as a symbol that will indicate and guide consumers to products that have been independently verified and found to comply with strict ecological and performance criteria.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware about the impact of their choices, and the European Eco-label addresses this issue by awarding this label to products and services that inflict less damage on the environment but are still as efficient as their non-ecological counterparts.
What products carry the European Eco-label?
The European Eco-label is awarded to goods and services but does not include food, drink or pharmaceuticals. Currently, the label covers twelve major areas of manufacturing and one service activity. The European Eco-label flower can be found across the following product categories --
- Bedding: Mattresses -- When the European Eco-label appears on mattresses, it denotes that the mattress has a reduced risk of allergies, that air and water pollution is limited at the time of manufacture and that no ozone-depleting substances are present. It also indicates that the “residues of dangerous substances for health and the environment are minimised” and that the mattress is guaranteed to last as long as regular mattresses.
Similarly, the European Eco-label appears on products related to:
- Gardening: Growing media and Soil Improvers
- Electronic equipment: Personal computers, portable computers and televisions
- Footwear: Shoes
- Household appliances: Dishwashers, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and heat pumps
- Textiles: Clothing, bed linen and indoor textiles
- Paper: Copying and graphic paper, tissue paper
- Cleaning: All purpose cleaners, dishwashing detergents, hand dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents, soaps, shampoos and hair conditioners
- Do-it-yourself: Hard floor coverings, light bulbs, paints and varnishes
- Services: Campsite services, tourist accommodation services
For further details on the benefits of the above products that carry the European Eco-label, visit Benefits of Products Bearing the Eco Label.
Who sets the Eco-labelling Criteria?
The setting of criteria for each product and category are the responsibility of the European Commission, which works through a Board. This is the European Union Eco-labelling Board (EUEB). The EUEB comprises of Competent Bodies and members of the Consultation Forum.
Competent Bodies are independent, neutral organisations that are responsible for the drafting of the Eco-label criteria, assessing applications, awarding the Eco-label. Essentially, Competent Bodies are responsible for implement this scheme at the national level. Visit Eco Label Competant Bodies for contact details of the national Competent Bodies.
The main role of the Consultation Forum is to draft the criteria for Eco-label and to ensure balanced participation of interested parties and stakeholders. The Consultation Forum comprises members from industry and service providers, non-governmental stakeholders such as the European Environmental Bureau, trade associations and consumer bodies.
The criteria are set based on a ‘cradle to grave’ approach. This means that the product is monitored through every stage of the product’s life, from manufacturing to disposal. This Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a fundamental part of the labelling initiative, “identifying when the most harmful impact to the environment occur, from the extraction of raw materials right through product use and disposal.”
The criteria account for the following areas of impact:
- Use of natural resources and energy
- Emissions to air, soil and water
- Waste disposal
- Noise pollution
- Recycling and re-use
- Effects on Ecosystems
The criteria for products also undergo revision. Generally,product criteria are valid between 3-5 years. At present revisions are in progress for textiles, indoor paints and varnishes and televisions. For complete current criteria, status and revisions please see European Eco Label Product Criteria
New Product Categories
The European Eco-label is considering new product categories. For the moment, printed paper and wooden furniture are being considered for this scheme.
The introduction and development of new product categories are a result of suggestions from interested parties. The stakeholders that influence these decisions include the national Competent Bodies, industry representatives, consumer organisations, environmental groups, trade unions and retailers.
To develop the criteria for a new product group, the European Commission issues a mandate to the EUEB. The EUEB then sets up an Ad hoc Working Group (AHWG) involving relevant parties (retailers, industry and consumers) and Competent Bodies.
The AHWG then conducts preparatory studies such as feasibility reports, market data and surveys, stakeholder consultations and assessment of performance standards. The criteria are drafted based on these preparatory studies, life cycle considerations and environmental improvement analysis. This draft is discussed with the EUEB and presented to the Commission. The Commission then decides whether further work is required on the ecological and compliance criteria or whether the mandate has been fulfilled.
Once the final draft is ready, it is presented to a Regulatory Committee of experts from member states for approval. Once approved, the criteria are adopted as a Commission Decision and are published accordingly.
Why don’t more products carry the European Eco-label Flower?
This labelling initiative is voluntary scheme and awards only those products that meet its high environmental standards. The number of products carrying the logo is steadily increasing through international companies as well as small and medium sized enterprises. At the same time, efforts are being made to expand the product categories that form the scope of this scheme.
The European Eco-label has a large reach as it recognised in all member states, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, a consumer base of roughly 450 million people. Therefore, it is becoming an extremely strong marketing tool for businesses that want to exhibit their commitment to the environment and appeal to conscious consumers.
- Eco Label
- Products Bearing the Eco label
- Introduction to the Eco Label
- Eco Label's FAQs