Image courtesy ecolabelling.org.
There was general agreement at the recent Sustainable Brands conference in Miami that eco-labels and certification programs are a mess. Granted, the answers are not simply green or brown. With so many factors to account for in evaluating sustainability, labels addressing limited attributes tend to proliferate and there is incentive for brands to choose just one side of the debate. Multiple NGOs, industry groups, governments, and individual companies expand the list further, creating a confusing landscape for consumers, and a nightmare for manufacturers trying to comply with the fine print (or, as is too often the case, just giving up).
There were calls (far from unanimous) for government leadership in defining and summarizing relevant environmental measures with a view to capturing the positive and negative, perhaps something along the lines of nutritional labels on foods.
A new site by start-up Big Room is a step in the right direction. They are bravely taking on the challenge of listing the eco-labels out there and providing as much background information as possible, as much as reluctant labelers make available, anyhow--308 and counting!
Shayne McQuade is founder of Voltaic Systems and a member of TreeHugger's board of directors.
More on Eco-Labeling
Ecolabelling .org: Cutting Through the Confusion
Long Overdue: Eco-labelling for Electronics
Eco-Labelling : Voting with Our Wallets
Flower Power – H&M; are using the EU Eco-Label
Learn These 5 Label Reading Tips to Stay Green and Healthy