Why do we Need Eco Labels?

Today, there are over 400 eco labels and certification schemes for the products we buy in over 500 countries. This article asks why we need them?

eco labels

The simple answer to this is that if an eco label or certification scheme exists it is a sure sign that there are some very bad practices out there that have destroyed the natural environment or exploited people in one way or another.

A product or business that carries an eco label or certification is trying to tell you, the consumer, that it has played no part in this. So Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification means that a product hasn’t destroyed the worlds important forests; Marine Stewardship Council certification means that fish have been sustainably harvested from our seas; and the various recycling schemes means that a product doesn’t have to head for landfill if you can work out which colour bin to put it in when you have finished with it.

Do eco labels or certification mean that this product is ‘green’ though?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this. You have to look behind the label. So many of the eco-labels and schemes cover single issues or multi-issues but very rarely do they cover the whole story of the impact of that product. So, for example, if a product tells you that it, or its packaging, is recyclable – it’s not telling you that the workers who made it were treated well, they were adults and not children or that its production did not destroy or pollute the natural environment.

A recyclable product is greener than a non-recyclable product for sure but it could probably do a lot better on the sustainability stakes.

Also there are eco labels and schemes and then there are ‘green claims’ made about products. Eco labels and schemes are generally robust and credible. Green claims however can sometimes be spurious to say the least. Just pop down to your garden centre and look at some of the eco labels you find there. ‘Natural ingredients’ on products – what does that really mean for a chemical product that zaps the bugs on begonias?


It is easy to be.

So what can you do? Simple – get curious. Look out for products that carry credible eco labels. Ask the retailer what the eco label means and what it covers. Over the coming weeks this blog will explore the eco labels, schemes and green claims within product categories like clothing and textiles, electronics, food, DIY and others.

In the meantime check out Defra’s Green Claim Guide to see what a good eco label or scheme looks like and what it doesn’t; be curious to increase the confidence in the buying choice you make.


Written by: Dr. Lisa Drewe, Newleaf Practice



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