How green is your mobile? AT&T and BSR launches a new rating label

Posted 24 February 2012 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

Sustainable Brands, always a great source of such news, posted that AT&T is launching a new eco-ratings tool for mobile devices.

The ratings will be communicated with marketing materials found in-store later this year; and consumers will be able to access more detailed information about the ratings online.

So what’s behind it? So far, its quite hard to find anything else out about it – save that it was developed by BSR and ATT together (so not an open process);  that has 15 criteria (we don’t know how or why they were selected, nor what they are); and that it will be based on manufacturers declarations (so doesn’t appear to include any  independent verification).

Transparency tools should also be transparent – so – details please!

What should a purchaser do when there are no standards or ecolabels?

Posted 16 February 2012 by Trevor Bowden to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

Professional purchasers rely on ecolabels to identify trusted green products. However there are many product categories for which there are no standards and ecolabels, so if a purchaser wants to “buy green” in that case, what are they to do?

One option is to go for newer, cleaner products that are so ahead of the curve that a standard has yet to be created. Think cleantech. Should purchasers be helping forge new markets for the super-green products? What are the risks and benefits of doing so?

Our research partners University of Minnesota and The Sustainability Consortium are running a webinar on exactly this topic on Feb 21, 2012 — Procurement in Sustainability: from buying green products to creating green solutions”. The webinar is free and open for registration.

Nancy Gillis from the US General Services Administration (one of the world’s largest purchasers); Kevin Dooley from The Sustainability Consortium and Tim Smith from the University of Minnesota will be exploring existing and potential procurement efforts in designing, prototyping and testing new products and services with suppliers; and commercializing the successes through standardization and large scale buying.

Equivalence for organics – historic agreement reached between the US and Europe

Posted 16 February 2012 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

The USDA and European Union have reached an agreement on organic food trade to mutually recognise each other’s standards. This means that as of June 1, 2012,  US producers with certified organic products can now sell in Europe, and vice versa. So as long as the terms of the arrangement are met, organic products certified to the USDA organic or European Union (EU) organic standards may sold, labeled, and represented as organic in both countries.

Only organic products of U.S. or EU origin are included – that is products that have been either been produced within the U.S. or EU or whose final processing or packaging occurs within the U.S. or EU.  So foreign sources are allowed, so long as its been processed or packaged (and therefore certified) in the US or EU.

NPR report that USDA officials predict that US organic exports to Europe will triple within three years.

Two notable exclusions point to some differences between the standards:

1. US crops produced using antibiotics (streptomycin for fire blight control in apples and pears) must not be shipped to the EU under the arrangement.

2. European Agricultural products derived from animals treated with antibiotics shall not be marketed as organic in the United States.

It’s great to see that they didn’t let those differences hold up the final agreement, and that ongoing work will be done between the programmes to bring the standards closer.

Ecolabels Essential for Corporate Sustainability

Posted 2 December 2011 by admin to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

A recent study done by Deloitte examines the current ecolabeling sector and provides explanations of how companies make decisions regarding certification and ecolabeling use. They interviewed over a dozen senior sustainability executives at a number of multinationals to get a clear picture of the corporate motivations behind certifications and ecolabeling.

The results of their study are summarized in an excellent article on GreenBiz that cites Ecolabel Index. They found most companies pursue ecolabeling and certification for one of four reasons:

-Many companies use them to maintain market share in various US states whose purchasing guidelines require certification.

-Others achieve them so they can win large institutional contracts.

-Some use them as a way raise their sustainability profile and green their supply chains.

-Others pursue labels that align with their brand and promote the company’s image.

While there are many reasons to pursue certification and ecolabeling, many executives expressed frustration with the number of labels and standards, as they lead to consumer confusion. This has caused some companies to decide not to proceed with certification while others are very wary of which labels and certifiers they choose to work with. A complete list of the qualities and preferences of desirable certifiers is in the GreenBiz article.

Currently the greatest demand for certification is in the B2B space, where companies are more aware of the advantages of greening their organization. However, moving forward Deloitte is predicting a shift from to the B2C space in the United States as consumers gradually shift their preferences towards sustainable products.

A number of executives also expressed interest in alternate methods of driving sustainability and marketing those efforts. For example a business could launch an educational campaign around sustainability products for their stakeholders or create an internal standard that governs the decisions made in their supply chain. Another interesting example is companies that achieve ecolabel certification but do not display the label, because they feel it lacks consumer awareness. While ecolabels and certification schemes are certainly growing, there is still no universally successful way to communicate green efforts to consumers and experimentation is sure to continue.

Historic Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil in Malaysia

Posted 28 November 2011 by admin to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

Last week, a massive meeting on implementing sustainability measures into the palm oil industry began. The 9th annual Roundtable Meeting or RT9, entitled “RSPO Certified. Transforming the Market. Together”, is hosted by The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a multi-stakeholder organization seeking to advance sustainable practices in the palm oil industry. RSPO manages an ecolabel that certifies green palm oil producers.

The conference is comprised of a number of panel discussions and seminars hosted by world leading environmentalists, sustainability advocates, policy makers, government representatives, academics, diplomatic envoys, private sector captains of industries, international financiers, and philanthropists. They will touch upon a number of different topics ranging from limiting green house gas emissions to dealing with the emergence of new producing regions like West Africa and Latin America. They will also cover ecolabeling issues like transparency, communications and environmental claims as well as trade and traceability.

This initiative comes in the wake of widespread allegations of environmental harm and deception perpetrated by major corporations in the palm oil business. Greenpeace has slammed the palm oil industry for tearing up forests, emitting greenhouse gasses and endangering wildlife. The Guardian and Rainforest News have both recently ran pieces accusing the industry of violently removing people from their villages and destroying their homes as well as running a ruthless greenwashing campaign to alter public opinion.

While it remains to be seen if such fraudulence is endemic to the industry or the actions of a few rogue companies, the RSPO is certainly making strides to raise awareness and achieve sustainable goals in the sector. The RSPO has 723 members that produce 5.2 millions tonnes of palm oil. A recent summary revealed that 87 of the 132 major palm oil purchasers have pledged to use 100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil by 2015. This is a sharp increase from 2009 when only 10 of 59 corporations vowed to buy palm oil with the ecolabel’s certification.