Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eco-Label Challenge #3: Criteria for Labels are Weak or Meaningless

The plethora of eco-labels assures coverage of nearly all aspects of environmental impact, from production to disposal. Unfortunately, some labels make claims that are insignificant or meaningless. This is best illustrated by labels that claim a product is free of CFCs. The Consumer Aerosol Products Council, a non-profit organization sponsored by 3M, promotes the use of the “No CFCs” logo on aerosol cans and offers it to companies to display on products (Consumer Reports, 2011). However, because CFCs were banned from virtually all consumer products in the United States as a result of the Montreal Protocol in 1978, this label is completely pointless and misleading. An unsuspecting consumer may incorrectly assume that products without such label contain CFCs and choose to buy those that are certified. This provides companies using these meaningless labels with an unfair advantage over those that are not using them, when in fact all products are produced according to the same standard mandated by law. In a similar fashion, some eco-labels use sub-standard criteria for certification. Eco-labels are meant to verify the claims of leading, innovative companies that perform above the status quo in terms of environmental impact. Labels with low standards falsely portray a message of superior environmental performance, further deteriorating the integrity of labeling schemes. Such meaningless and weak criteria are certainly having an impact on the effectiveness of eco-labeling in meeting their three objectives.


Consumer Reports. (2011b). Label search results: No CFCs. Greener Choices. Retrieved from http://www.greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/label.cfm?LabelID=268.

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