How green is green ISO Standards can help

Issue 47 – March 2013

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published a new brochure, Environmental labels and declarations – How ISO standards can help. The 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 brochure gives a concise and clear introduction to the ISO 14020 series of Standards, which cover different aspects of environmental labels and declarations.

The brochure has been authored by leading 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 on 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 can leave a lot to be desired. It may be may be scientifically inaccurate or, even when accurate, confusing to the consumer.

'Does any of this matter?' ask the authors of the brochure. 'Well, consumers can only express their preferences through their purchasing decisions if they have access to accurate, comparable information.

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

ISO 14020 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 new brochure presents ISO 14020 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.

→ Download the brochure [PDF 975KB]

Summarised from an ISO media release, 14 February 2013.

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Published in environment.

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