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Credibility of ecolabels challenged by new report

11 May 2018

Ecolabels have come to play an important role in how many consumers - and procurers - reassure themselves about the environmental and ethical implications of the things that they buy. But the credibility of many prominent ecolabels has been challenged by a recent report from the Changing Markets Foundation, which raises questions about the role that ecolabels should play in sustainable public procurement.

The False Promise of Certification focuses on three areas - palm oil, fisheries and textiles. Growing consumption and unsustainable sourcing in each of these has been the source of major environmental problems, and they are also now the subject of some of the largest and best known ecolabel schemes. The vast majority of these ecolabels, however, have been found to be ineffective: they lack transparency, they fail to set adequate standards, and ultimately, they have been certifying unsustainable practices and have failed to halt environmental destruction.

Ecolabel criteria are often drawn on by procurers to set their sustainability specifications, and certification under a relevant ecolabel scheme is often accepted as proof that a product meets the desired standards. This report suggests that, at the very least, procurers need to consider carefully the governance of schemes and how and why criteria have been set when drawing from ecolabels. Moving forward, this may signal a need for wider change in procurement practices.

The full report on "The False Promise of Certification" can be read here.