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A Brief Introduction to Ecolabels
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ecolabels can be defined as ‘voluntary granting of labels by a private or public body in order to inform consumers and thereby promote consumer products which are determined to be environmentally more friendly than other functionally and competitively similar products’ (Visser 2009, p.145).
Ecolabels are an important resource for gaining consumer trust in environmental claims and as well in shaping their behaviour through a more sustainable oriented lifestyle (Thøgersen et al. 2010, p. 1787). They perform three main key roles; first, they set standards regarding what kind of environmental or/and social considerations need to be meet in certain level and how they measure thefulfilment of those requirements. Some times they nail forbidden practices or use a positive point-based system with a minimum point sum for been eligible within their scheme. Second, these organisations need to have a verification system, which ensure that the standards in question are been met, some examples of verification activities are written applications, lab testing and inspections. The thirdtask they perform is as an educational and marketing tool through the means of communication with the consumer, this communication vehicle reduce information search costs by giving enough guidance and therefore making this process easier for the consumer (RAFI 2002, p. 1f).
Ecolabels can be certified in three different levels; by the company itself (first party), giving a certain assurance as toclaims specific product performance that is backed by its own reputation. It also can be certified by industry-related associations or the country of origin (second party), normally under this scheme the common institution is responsible for monitoring and assuring the quality claimed by its members. The last level of certification is through an independent entity (third party), where the evaluationis made by an expert and accredited organisation, this promise an unbiased result and it is considered the best level of assurance, that at the same time, enjoys the highest credibility status (Boer 2003, p. 257f).
There are some characteristics that can make an ecolabel been considered successful; first of all, it should be informative and easy to understand. As it is meant to beenvironmentally friendly, it should reduce the correspondent product-related environmental pollution; as well it should provide an attractive economic incentive to manufacturers in order to be applied and to stimulate innovation for reducing pollution and improving product performance related to its environmental focus. Nevertheless, there is a fine line between the benefits that a producer can get and its costof implementation and, also because normally is expected that only a small percentage of products in a product category meet these criteria (the range typically is around 5 up to 30%) (OECD 2005, p. 5; University of Hertfordshire 2010, p. 4f), this still leaves a bigger proportion of products in the market not applying these principles, hindering its impact.
According to Ecolabel Index, nowadaysthere are around 377 ecolabels in 211 different countries and in 25 different industry sectors (2011). In 2009, 340 ecolabels were surveyed, during this survey 33% of the participants completed it, 42% could not be reached, 14% do not finish it and, 10% declined to participate. This survey was intended to show information related to performance and organisational structure towards transparency.As part of the information given in this effort is also worth to mention that it was found out that among this labels, 92% require certification before they can be used and of these just a 66% use third-party certification. 88% make who or what they have certified public and, 87% make their certification criteria public, while 30% don´t monitor their ecolabel impact. On top of that, it was found...
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