How green is green? ISO standards can help

Friday, 22 February, 2013

A new ISO brochure will help both manufacturers and consumer representatives understand how a simple set of rules and guidelines provided by ISO standards can ensure that environmental claims made on products or labels can be trusted.

The free brochure, ‘Environmental labels and declarations - How ISO standards can help’, gives a concise and clear introduction to the ISO 14020 series of standards dealing with different aspects of environmental labels and declarations.

The brochure has been authored by experts from the ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management. In their introduction to the brochure, they write: “With the relentless focus on climate change and health, consumers are becoming more interested in less tangible product attributes such as the ethical and environmental aspects of a product’s production and supply. In response to this, manufacturers often voluntarily choose to provide information concerning the environmental aspects of their products on labelling and in advertising.

“In short, the environmental benefits of a company’s products, such as recyclability of packaging, are part of its overall marketing strategy. Smart businesses are making a virtue out of necessity by promoting the environmental features of their products. Getting a market benefit through environmental labelling makes sense, particularly where companies have made the investment in environmental improvement and putting environmental management systems in place.”

The problem is that such information may be scientifically inaccurate or, even when accurate, confusing to the consumer.

“Consumers can only express their preferences through their purchasing decisions if they have access to accurate, comparable information,” said the authors.

“Consumers have the power to stimulate manufacturers to innovate because manufacturers may hope that improved environmental performance communicated to consumers means increased market share.”

The ISO 14020 series provides businesses with a globally recognised and credible set of international benchmarks against which they can prepare their environmental labelling, which is increasingly used on products and in advertising, in response to consumer demand.

The brochure presents the ISO 14020 series in clear and simple language to help manufacturers and consumer associations decide whether the standards can help advance their converging objective of informing the consumer in an accurate and understandable way.

The brochure can be downloaded here.

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