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Can There Be Eco-Labeling Without Greenwashing?

 

Energy StarA great piece in the International Herald Tribune, the Global Edition of The New York Times, analyzes the impacts and limitations of eco-labeling.

As companies that honestly pursue the most socially and environmentally conscious practices attempt to make their products stand out, they face competitors using a slew of new – and often less than meaningful – eco-certifications, each with it’s own label. The result is confusion. Well-meaning but time-crunched consumers often reach for what looks “green,” and shrewd marketers use that emotional response for their own benefit.

Of course, there are some labels that carry both consumer acceptance and real positive social and environmental benefits. Take “Fair Trade,” for example. The piece examines the social and environmental implications of buying Fair Trade versus commodity coffee. Fair Trade offers a reasonable guarantee of fair labor practices, the restriction of pesticide use, and conscious stewardship of the land.

“On the other hand, certifications like recycled or recyclable indicate only one thing - that they were made from recycled material or that they can, under very specific circumstances, be recycled at end of life,” says EarthShift founder Lise Laurin. “These same products may be energy hogs, include toxic materials, be made in a sweatshop or have characteristics that make it unlikely they will ever be able to be recycled (take for example a pizza box).”

Using practices like Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability ROI (S-ROI) can help companies assess the social and environmental impacts of their products. And through peer-reviewed studies, companies can make meaningful Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) – and a positive impact.

Here’s a preview of the story:

“As consumers increasingly vote with their wallets for sustainable goods and groceries, producers are doing more to signal the eco-friendliness of their wares. But amid the many different certification logos, package designs and environmental claims, experts warn that all that glitters is not green.

The glut of sustainability claims presents challenges both for consumers looking to "buy green" and green companies trying to stand out from the fray.

One of the problems with certification systems is that there is simply too many of them, experts say…”

Read the whole story here > 

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