An ecolabel is a logo that identifies a product or company that has met an environmentally preferable standard. It is not always obvious what an ecolabel means and there are lots of different standards with varying levels of quality control around the world. Having standards makes it easier for governments and companies to build policies around how to buy and sell green.
Typically, a company applies to an ecolabelling organisation for the right to use its label on their products and in order to gain that certification, the company and product must continually conform to the required standards of the organisation. Sometimes companies just decide to award themselves a label - certainly faster, but perhaps less credible.
There are several logo types:
such as “chlorine free”, “eco-friendly” or other
generic terms. This type is most likely guilty of greenwashing and is
an independently validated claim.
Type I Ecolabel
Provide a 'seal of approval' where a licence is given to use the ecolabel logo on products which have met the specification, been independently audited and consider life-cycle environmental impacts over the whole life-cycle. Type I ecolabels, such as the Nordic Ecolabel, are thus an indicator of overall environmental preference in that product category.
Type II Ecolabel
These are self-declarations, not involving independent audit (e.g. the 'recyclable/recycled' Mobius loop symbol)
Type III Ecolabel
Type III ecolabels are operated by third parties and involve independent audits which includes information about the environmental impacts associated with a product or service, such as raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, emissions to air, soil and water and waste generation. It also includes product and company information.
The international EPD® system is a member of the Global Type III Environmental Product Declarations Network and is a standardized (ISO 14025/TR) and Life Cycle Assessment. (LCA) based tool to communicate the environmental performance of a product or system.
Natracare holds both Type I and Type III ecolabels to
include the Nordic Ecolabel and LOHAS (Type I) and an EPD (Type III).