November 1, 2010 by Becky Marks

The EU ecolabel is a voluntary scheme set up in 1992. It provides a Europe-wide environmental accreditation for a wide range of products and services, from tourist accommodation to cleaning products. Products awarded the ecolabel show the distinctive flower logo.

The aim of the scheme is to benefit both manufacturers, who can demonstrate good environmental standards in their products, and consumers, who are able to choose products that adhere to stricter environmental standards. Ecolabelled products can be marketed across the EU and EEA countries.

Recognition of the label is growing, with over 2000 products currently holding a licence for the EU ecolabel. The label currently covers over 20 product groups and is expanding all the time.

The scheme is similar to the Nordic Swan scheme that has proved a huge success across the Nordic countries. Following the introduction of the Nordic Swan major retailers have been forced to re-assess the environmental performance of their products and services in order to compete with growing numbers of products bearing the swan logo. The Nordic Swan has taken off to such an extent that even supermarkets can now gain the award by stocking a large proportion of ecolabelled goods as well as meeting criteria relating to areas like energy efficiency and transport of goods. It is hoped that the EU ecolabel will emulate the success of the Nordic Swan.

The first step to achieving the EU ecolabel is to determine which product group a product falls under, as criteria differ between product groups. Product group criteria are valid for 3 – 5 years and are then assessed and possibly revised. The applicant must provide evidence that their product meets the strict environmental criteria, through submission of declarations, test data and packaging information, depending on the product or service. Site visits may also be carried out. The completed application form and supporting dossier must then be submitted to the Competent Body in the country where the product is manufactured or, if manufactured outside the EU, where it is sold in the EU. Although the EU ecolabel criteria are the same across the EU, each country has its own Competent Body – an independent body that provides advice on applications as well as assessing completed applications.

An application fee is required for submission of an ecolabelling application. This can be between €200 and €1200, with reductions for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro-enterprises. Following the award of the ecolabel an annual fee of up to €1500 is required for use of the ecolabel, again with fee reductions for SMEs and micro-enterprises.

I’ve recently been involved in preparing an ecolabel application for cleaning products. This has included:

  • Linking ingredients to those on the Detergents Ingredients Database (DID) list
  • Carrying out literature searches and data review for ingredients where sufficient data were not available on the DID list or from the company
  • Calculating the Toxicity Factors and Degradation Factors for those ingredients not on the DID list
  • Calculating the Critical Dilution Volume for the whole product
  • Compiling a supporting dossier of information demonstrating compliance with the ecolabel criteria to submit alongside the application form