Driving improvement in the "green labels" marketplace

by Sandrine Tranchard on
ISO News feeds (RSS)
In a supermarket, a woman in front of a milk fridge, is holding a carton of milk .

“Doing one's bit” for the environment has become a reflex for many consumers, who are attentive to the environmental impact of the products they buy. Environmental statements, symbols or graphics proliferate on products or package labels, which made it necessary to develop environmental labelling standards that take into consideration all the relevant aspects of the life-cycle of a product

To help you find your way around the labelling mayhem, a new edition of ISO 14021, Environmental labels and declarations – Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling), has just been published and deals with all environmental claims voluntarily made by companies for their products. While self-declarations are often found on products, and/or their packaging, they are not restricted to on-pack claims but include all environmental assertions, however they are made – through advertising, on the Internet or in trade reports.

The standard is a critical tool for manufacturers and businesses who want to communicate about the impact of their products on the environment in the best possible way. It provides a list of general requirements to be followed when using the standard, then defines selected terms commonly used in environmental claims, giving qualifications for their use, and describes a general evaluation and verification methodology for self-declared environmental claims.

“ISO 14021:2016 is a very important document as it provides guidance to any business wishing to make an environmental claim, but not willing or able to take on the cost or process of going through a third-party programme,” explained Jenny Hillard, an expert in subcommittee ISO/TC 207/SC 3, Environmental labelling, that developed the standard. “This applies particularly to SMEs and companies in developing countries wishing to export their goods.”

ISO 14021 does not require that environmental claims be made. Rather, it focuses on how best to make a statement in a way that is meaningful and useful to a consumer, should a claim be made.

The objective of this International Standard developed by experts, with the participation of consumer groups and environmental non-governmental organizations, is to harmonize the use of self-declared environmental claims, with the following expected benefits:

  • Accurate and verifiable environmental claims that are not misleading
  • Increased potential for market forces to stimulate environmental improvements in production, processes and products
  • Prevention or minimization of unwarranted claims
  • Reduction in marketplace confusion
  • Facilitation of international trade
  • Increased opportunities for purchasers, potential purchasers and product users to make more informed choices

ISO 14021:2016 replaces the 1999 edition and was developed by technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, subcommittee SC 3, Environmental labelling, whose secretariat is held by Standards Australia, the ISO member for the country. It is available from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.