As market demand for healthy, environmentally friendly products has skyrocketed over the past few years, there has been an explosion of “green” product claims with varying degrees of legitimacy. Environmental marketing claims, should always be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, which should include testing, analysis, research, studies and other professional evidence.
Only robust, independent, third-party certification based on stringent standards and verification requirements ensures truthful and credible messaging to help customers make healthy and sustainable product choices.
Who is Behind Eco-Labels?
Many claims and labels only have the appearance of legitimacy, but are nothing more than marketing logos without any verification or substantiation behind them. Other eco-labels are run by manufacturers, trade or industry organizations, or the criteria and standards they use were created by these special interest groups. Credible third-party certification is verified, designed and conducted by an independent body with no financial interest in the sale of the certified products or ties to manufacturers or industry besides fees for assessment services.
How Should an Eco-Label be Evaluated?
Environmental and public health claims should always be certified by an independent, third-party organization. This contributes rigor, stringency and credibility, protects manufacturers’ and specifiers’ reputation and reduces liability. One helpful step in evaluating an eco-label is to consider the organization that stands behind it. Using these criteria, certifications will fall into one of the three basic categories as outlined below:
First-party certification equates to a self-declaration. This type of certification is not based on verification by independent third parties. The rigor and credibility of such claims, therefore, is less certain than claims that have been independently certified.
Second-party certification means that an industry, trade or special interest group that gains revenue from the sale of certified products, has critical involvement in the certification, either through administration of the certification program, verification of the claims or creation of the standards and methods. Second-party certifications are very common and often portrayed as third-party.
Third-party certification refers to certification programs in which all aspects of the certification program, from claims verification and standard design to administration of the program, are conducted and run by an independent body whose
only ties to manufacturer or industry are fees for assessment services.
Are Product Claims Scientifically Verifiable?
Look for products that have undergone testing and analysis that is scientifically based and can be easily replicated.
For more information on evaluating green product claims, check out the Seven Sins of Greenwashing website:
The Seven Sins of Greenwashing