What is the European Eco-label?
The eco-label, or the flower as it is sometimes referred, is a label placed on products and services that meet high standards of environmental awareness. It is officially endorsed by the EU and can be placed on a range of products sold across the EU and EEA (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). The list of products that can display the eco-label is substantial with each product range assigned an individual eligibility criteria (see below for a complete list). However, there is an overriding philosophy that connects all eco-label products. Although the eligibility criteria vary from product to product, the scientific basis on which all the criteria are founded concerns the whole life-cycle of the product. In other words, for a product to display an eco-label the manufacturing process, use and ultimate disposal of that product must have minimal negative effects upon the environment. All the criteria are also based on the substitution of hazardous substances for safer ones when technically feasible and products that contain hazardous substances cannot bear the Eco-label.
The eco-label is a completely voluntary scheme, there is absolutely no obligation on US exporters to seek eco-label certification before entering the EU market. The scheme is intended to encourage industry to adopt more environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices by offering companies that meet the criteria a label that can be used as a marketing tool.
However, putting the eco-label on a product comes at a cost. Currently there are application and annual fees. Applicants must also bear the costs of independent product testing and any required modifications to their manufacturing procedures. Potential candidates should also note that the eco-label eligibility criteria are reviewed every few years to take into account advances in environmental technologies. The eco-label is now a corner-stone of the EU’s “Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan”. This initiative seeks to promote the development and adoption of environmental technologies through a series of EU backed programs. In addition to the Eco-label, the Green Public Procurement program and the Eco-design of Energy related Products Directive, among other programs, fall under the umbrella of this action plan.
Finally, it is likely that the range of products eligible to display the eco-label will expand in the coming years. It is also possible that future eligibility criteria may include standards on carbon emissions.
What products are eligible? / What are the criteria for a product to be eligible?
As noted above, each product range has its own individual criteria to assess eligibility to display the eco-label. Below is the most up-to-date list of products that may display the eco-label. The relevant product ranges for US exporters have a link to the official eco-label website. These websites offer detailed explanations on the specific criteria that must be met for a product to qualify for the eco-label. There are also links to application packs and other important information on these websites.
By William Samuel McDonald