Environmental Labelling at the International Level

Environmental labelling is a major issue for every international body that deals with the environment or trade. While organisations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Trade Organisation have concentrated on the policy side of the issue, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has been carrying out work on standardising environmental labelling schemes. The ISO work, begun in January 1993, is being carried out under the rubric of the ISO Technical Committee number 207 (TC207). TC207 is the umbrella body for environmental standards setting. It is working on standards ranging from corporate activity (environmental management systems, environmental auditing), to product evaluation (environmental labelling, environmental performance evaluation).

As part of its ISO 14000 series of environmental standards, the ISO has drawn up a group of standards specifically governing environmental labelling. It contains guiding principles for the development and use of certain types of environmental labels.

ISO 14000

The ISO has identified three broad types of labelling schemes as a part of its ISO 14020 family:

Type I is a multi-attribute label developed by a third party;

Type II is a single-attribute label developed by the producer;

Type III is an eco-label whose awarding is based on a full life-cycle assessment.

 

Standard

Description

Application

ISO 14020

Environmental Labelling: General Principles

Sets out nine general principles that apply not only to labeling schemes but to all environmental claims, designed to promote accurate, verifiable and relevant information

ISO 14021

Environmental Labels and Declarations: Self-Declaration Environmental Claims, Terms and Definitions

Sets out requirements for Type II labels, i.e. environmental claims made for goods and services by the producer

ISO 14022

Environmental Labels and Declarations: Self-Declaration Environmental Claims, Symbols

Promotes the standardization of terms and symbols used in environmental claims, e.g. 'recycled content'

ISO 14023

Environmental Labels and Declarations: Self-Declaration Environmental Claims, Testing and Verification

(Currently under review)

ISO 14024

Environmental Labels and Declarations: Environmental Labeling Type I, Guiding Principles and Procedures

Provides guidance on developing programmes that verify the environmental attributes of a product via a seal of approval

 

The committee is also working on the standardisation of Life-Cycle Analysis, which is seen as the backbone of much of the work of TC207. The work of the ISO TC207’s Subcommittee-3 on environmental labellings divided into work on the types of labels mentioned above (Ecolabel, Eco-Profile labels and manufacturers own claims), plus work on general principles. While sub committee -5 of TC is working on Life cycle assessment. In June 2008, a working group on eco-efficiency assessment on product life cycle has established and released standards in 2011 and 2012. The purpose is to standardize in the field of LCA. It is used as a tool for environmental management of product and service systems. It involves the assessment of impacts on the environment from extraction of raw materials to the disposal of waste.

 

Standard

Description

Application

 

ISO 14040:2006

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Principles and framework

ISO 14044:2006

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Requirements and guidelines

ISO 14045:2012

Environmental management -- Eco-efficiency assessment of product systems

Principles, requirements and guidelines

ISO 14046:2014

Environmental management -- Water footprint

Principles, requirements and guidelines

ISO/TR 14047:2012

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Illustrative examples on how to apply ISO 14044 to impact assessment situations

ISO/TS 14048:2002

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Data documentation format

ISO/TR 14049:2012

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Illustrative examples on how to apply ISO 14044 to goal and scope definition and inventory analysis

ISO/TR 14071:2014

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Critical review processes and reviewer competencies: Additional requirements and guidelines to ISO 14044:2006

ISO/TR 14072:2014

Environmental management –Life cycle assessment

Requirements and guidelines for organizational life cycle assessment

ISO/AWI TR 14073

Environmental management –Water Footprint

Illustrative examples on how to apply ISO 14046