photo: Joshua W via flickr
The sheer proliferation of eco-labeling, certification and recognition programs, covering everything from food, to clothing, to energy and more, is bewildering--even to people who follow this stuff professionally. It's hard to keep up with it all and sometimes just as hard to sort out what labels can be trusted and which need improvement. Which is where the just-launched Ecolabel Index comes in. A collaboration between the World Resources Institute and Big Room Inc., the Ecolabel Index covers more than 340 ecolabeling programs from around the globe and breaks down the details of what is covered under the program, how it was developed, who manages it, and how well compliance with the program is assessed.
As Big Room co-founder Trevor Bowden notes, "Some ecolabels are regionally specific, while others are global, and some have stricter standards than others. There is a real need for improvement in transparency and accountability along with high quality information that's standardized and comparable worldwide."
A quick survey of the information provided by each ecolabel on the site--derived from a 66 question survey--bears out this concern. The amount of information available on a label by label basis varies markedly.
Accountability is a huge concern. WRI and Big Room note that 92% of programs require some sort of verification before being awarded their ecolabel certification--it really shocks me that this isn't 100%. Of those only 66% require third-party certification--again, considering the currency these programs trade in is credibility, not exactly comforting.
WRI goes on to highlight another concern, continued accuracy of claims:
Less than a third of ecolabels surveyed regularly monitor environmental and social impacts of their certification, while more than 21% of ecolabels have developed plans to study impacts for the first time.
The uptick in developing plans to monitor the impact of certification is a good thing, certainly, but it also highlights how far we have to go before consumers can more easily trust labeling claims without having to do their own research into the certification organization.
More on Ecolabels:
98% of Green Labeled Products Are Actually Greenwashed
Green Product Labeling: Is It Valid & Does It Matter?
Finding Some Clarity in the Muddy World of Eco-Labeling
7 Food Certification Programs You Need to Eat Green