Eco-labelled products have met criteria and fulfilled demands on quality and on the minimisation of environmental impact. The Nordic Svan and The Flower are guarantees for the consumer which indicate a high quality product, that has less impact on the environment than other similar products.

The purpose of eco-labels is “to help consumers choose products that have less impact on the environment than other comparable products”.  The eco-labelling of a certain product or service is a confirmation of the fact that the producer has met certain established criteria, when producing the product. For instance demands are made on the type of raw materials used, type of packaging, and concerning the environmental impact of the product through its entire life-cycle. This is then assessed by an independent certifying third party (not by the company itself or its clients).

It is important in this context to differentiate between a certified environmental label (eco-label) and the environmental labels used by the producers themselves. In this text we are only discussing eco-labels certified by a third party, as they are generally considered most reliable.

It is also not advisable to confuse the environmental certification of companies (environmental management standards) with eco-labels on specific products. The environmental management standards (ISO 14001) certify that in the company there have been established certain work procedures which take into account the environmental consequences of the company’s production. The environmental management standards of specific companies and producers give no information about the environmental effects of the products themselves which are being produced or sold by the company as such. For instance a producer of paint or sales agent can have ISO 14001 certification, but it does not say anything about the environmental consequences of the paint itself when it is being used or released into the environment. To say that a product is environmentally friendly because the producer is a certified company, is the same as insisting that gasoline is environmentally friendly because the oil company in question has an environmental management standard according to ISO 14001.

On the other hand, eco-labels concern the product or the service as such but have nothing to do with the environmental work performed within the company in other respects. Eco-labels and environmental management standards can interact when the label also covers service provided. However it can be difficult to differentiate between the service, itself and the company providing the service. It is for instance impossible to eco-label hotel services without setting criteria that affect the running of the hotel itself. The criteria, thus, establishes rules for the company that provides the service in order to ensure that the service is environmentally friendly.

Ecological Labels

An independent third party sets certain criteria and makes stringent demands on results or the environmental qualities of the product or service being eco-labelled. The product or service that meets the criteria receives an eco-label.

The Environmental Certification of Companies:

The company decides itself which are the main environmental components of its production. An independent third party makes an assessment and checks that the company has installed certain work processes in order to meet environmental standards. No assessment is made of the company’s products.

Environmental matters are often complicated; they involve complex environmental chemistry, global warming impact on ecosystems and so on. Eco-labelling makes it easier for the producer to channel information about his environmental performance to the consumer. The consumer saves both time and work, and does not have to verify the information from the producer himself. The Nordic Swan and The Flower are labels which consumers know they can trust, and they are now in force in various product categories. The demands on eco-labelling of products are also constantly being revised. For ecological food production and raw materials, the Tún label and the EU-organic logo are valid. These are examples of independent and responsible eco-labels, but there are many more. It is important to recognise the respective labels and to know what each label indicates.

Developing criteria for eco-labelling is really expensive. The eco-labels are financed mainly by taking a small fee of every sold product. For instance the Nordic Swan label functions thus that 0.4% of the retail price of the product goes to care, maintenance and marketing of the Nordic Swan up to a certain upper limit which is 200,000 IKR in Iceland. The Nordic Swan is the label of the Nordic Council of Ministers and is partly financed from there. The financing of other environmental labels is managed in a similar manner, through sales of the product or the service provided.

Other Undefined Labels

Product labelling of different kinds is becoming more and more common. There are all kinds of signs and symbols on products used to indicate this. This can make it difficult for the consumer to decipher the message, and to know what each label or each symbol really means. Labels that concern the environment can be divided roughly into three different classes: Firstly, acknowledged and respected labels, certified by an independent third party. Secondly, environmental labels which the producers themselves use to label their products and thirdly labels that have nothing whatsoever to do with the environmental performance of the company  and which can be directly misleading providing no information about whether and how the product affects the environment.

The two last categories can easily be confused with each other. The labels designed by the producers themselves are not as plausible and reliable as the respected labels, certified by an independent third party. Detailed information about which companies and products in Iceland have environmental labels and certified environmental management standards is available here in the Green Pages. Justu choose the valid category or insert a search term into the search engine. Each and every product on the Nature market is also connected to information about labelling, as long as the info exists and is available.

Graphic: A symbol exclusively used for eco-labelling at ©

Nov. 5, 2013
Finnur Sveinsson
Finnur Sveinsson „Umhverfismerkt - viðmið“, Náttú Nov. 5, 2013 URL: [Skoðað:Feb. 21, 2024]
Efni má nota eða vitna í samkvæmt almennum venjum sé heimilda getið með slóð eða fullri tilvitnun hér að ofan.
skrifað: May 8, 2007
breytt: Aug. 22, 2014