420  Environmental labelling


'Green' labels may be banned 

It could be harder to be eco-friendly, if plans to ban energy efficiency labels on appliances like washing machines, fridges and irons are successful, Friends of the Earth is warning, as `Energy Saving Week' approaches (24-28 Oct 2005).  A proposal to outlaw energy efficiency labelling is to be  discussed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)'s ongoing negotiations.  Over 200 similar`free trade' measures have been put forward, and if successful, could deny people access to `green' information on a huge range of products. 


The Governments of countries including Korea, the US and China are claiming that eco-labelling damages their competitiveness and acts as a barrier to trade. Other basic measures these governments want revoked include: 



Anyone concerned with environmental criteria and contemplating a purchase on the basis of factors other than price and obvious selling points, may face a problem of reconciling conflicting claims.  The marketing world has not been slow to recognise the sales potential of ‘greener’ products.  Phrases abound such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘100 per cent recycled’, ‘produced from managed forest’.  In practice, many have come to mean little more than ‘higher priced for bigger profits.’

In response to this unsatisfactory situation, many different logos, labelling and certification schemes have been devised by individual trading nations, by the European Union, by non-governmental organisations and by industry groups such as paper manufacturers.  Some are listed below.  As a means of identifying products, services or practices that meet some specific criteria, they are useful, but their abundance can be confusing and some rationalisation is desirable.  

Over the past 10 years, 46 million hectares in more than 62 countries have been
certified to FSC standards, while several thousand products are produced using FSC certified wood and carry the FSC trademark.  Major retailers in Europe, North America, South America and Asia ask for FSC certification when ordering forest products to assure customers that products support responsible forestry.  FSC operates through a network of National Initiatives in over 30 countries - further information below under alphabetical listing, and at www.fsc.org.  In late 2004 it revised its standards, to improve ability to trace wood from source to shop, reinforcing the benefits for sustainability.

The urgent need to source wood and timber products sustainably - and locally - was supported by news reports in all mainstream media on 19 and 20 May 2005, that destruction of the Amazon rainforest has now increased to one fifth of its previous size.  The problem is also driven by perceived expected profits not just from logging, but from soya production and ranching (eg for beef) on land cleared of forest.  Once cleared, nearly all water, moisture, biodiversity, and CO2 absorbing benefits of forest are (permanently) lost.  The resultant release of CO2 into the atmosphere is worsened, because the trees are no longer there to do their usual job of limiting global warming and climate change by absorbing the high levels of CO2 that we create every day.

To recycle the different types of post-use plastics, they must be identified. The six types most commonly used in packaging usually carry the following symbols.

Polyethylene terephthalate   eg fizzy drink bottles, ready meal trays

Low density polyethylene   eg  carrier bags, bin liners

High density polyethylene    eg milk and washing-up liquid bottles

Polypropylene   eg margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.

Polyvinyl chloride   eg food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo.

Polystyrene   eg  yoghurt pots, foam meat/fish trays, burger boxes, egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, packaging for electronic goods and toys.

There is a seventh, which covers "all other resins" eg melamine, often used in plastic plates and cups.   About 50% of UK post-use plastic is PE (labelled 1,2 and 4), and 20% PP.  It is to be noted that PVC carries the greatest health risks, and its use is being increasingly restricted throughout Europe in sensitive areas such as food and drink packaging and babies' dummies.  It also contributes highly toxic dioxins to the air when incinerated.

The Green Claims Code is a DETR initiative which lays down a list of dos and don’ts for manufacturers who want to market their products to green consumers. For example, the code says that green claims should be written in plain language, capable of being supported by scientific evidence which can be independently verified and explicit about the meaning of any symbol used in the claim. The Green Claims Code is designed to serve as an interim measure while the Government looks at the legislation concerning labelling. Copies are available from DETR Publications Despatch Centre, Blackhorse Road, London SE99 6TT.

Progress has been made in areas such as white goods, including fridges and freezers, for which energy labelling is compulsory.  Those labelled 'A' are the most energy efficient models.  Those which use non-toxic hydrocarbon coolants (a mixture of propane and butane) are more energy efficient and contribute less to global warming.  See section 45 on Refrigeration.

Also see  
Wood waste (14)
Wood burning (15)
Refrigeration equipment
Plastic containers, packaging and film
Recycled content products (300) and subsections 310 onwards, including 
Recycled paper products (320)
Furniture and wood products from reclaimed materials (350)
Responsible consumerism (410)  
Green building and decorating
Organic and low input food and drink (440)

We have highlighted these following the editorial above, but other sections of THE WASTEBOOK will also contain listings of items or operations subject to monitoring and labelling.  As an example, the WEEE ( Waste Electrical & Electronic equipment) Directive, due to be enforced in the UK in 2006, will add to labelling specifying positive environmental implications.

Alphabetical list of organisations

Biodynamic Agricultural Association
Tel 0156 288 4933
Rudolph Steiner House, 35 Park Road, LONDON NW1 6XT

Approved body carrying out regular inspection of holdings to ensure compliance with EC Regulation applying to organic food. Compliance entitles products to carry the 'Demeter' environmental label.

Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel)

Recognised by leading green office suppliers as a stringent labelling system enabling purcahse of efficient, eco-friendly products.  For recycled paper,  requires minimum of 51% printed and domestic / office waste, but also requires companies to report on 'cradle to grave' of materials, including product design, energy used in process, chemical emissions, acoustics, recyclability and take-back programmes.  Several UK brands carry the Blue Angel mark.  (Updated Aug 2005)

Brands Paper

Tel 01788 540000 Fax 01788 535872
Swift Valley, RUGBY, Warwicks CV21 1QN

Paper merchants with network of nine regional offices. Responsible for developing the 'ABCD' recycled paper classification system and 'EcoCheck' - the paper industry's first environmental assessment scheme for both standard and recycled ranges.

Tel 01923 664454 Fax 01923 664786
Centre for Waste and Recycling, Garston, WATFORD, Herts WD2 7JR
www.bre.co.uk E-mail enquiries@bre.co.uk

UK’s leading construction and fire research centre. BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) is BRE’s environmental labelling scheme for buildings, applicable to offices, superstores and housing.  It rates a building against a series of environmental impacts and provide visible certificable evidence of the performance of the building.

Eatwell  (
information from government's Food Standards Agency)
Websites www.eatwell.gov.uk 
www.foodstandards.gov.uk *

Web information link from Food Standards Agency (section 440) to help people understand food labelling.  Aimed at both consumers and caterers.  Sample label explained.  Explanation of terms and symbols, e-numbers.  Info on toxicity, additives and behaviour in children, allergy and intolerance.  *Info on plans for 'signpost’ or 'traffic light' labelling to help people make healthier choices.  Correctly states that food labels referring to recycling of containers are not very helpful.   (Updated May 2005)

Website  http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ecolabel/index_en.htm   

The flower symbol, found throughout the EU (a market of over 375 million consumers), is a voluntary scheme (creating no barriers to trade) to encourage businesses to produce and market products and services with a greener life-cycle, and for European consumers - public and private purchasers - to identify them.  It is awarded only to products with the lowest environmental impact in a product range - categories are carefully defined.  Each EU member state has designated a Competent Body to receive applications.  The aim of the European Eco-label is to provide producers with information so they can perform more sustainably and promote sustainable consumption and production to customers and other businesses.  Green Store www.ecolabel.com is a linked database, searchable by product or manufacturer, allowing consumers to seek information about products (not food or medicine) bearing the Flower quickly and easily.  (Updated Aug 2005)

Energy labelling  
When shopping for appliances, look for the Energy Efficiency Recommended (EER) logo.  This guarantees the product will save energy, cost less to run and help the environment.  It can be found on light bulbs and fittings, fridges and freezers, washing and dishwashing machines, gas and oil boilers, heating controls, loft insulation, draught proofing, cavity wall and solid wall insulation.

Energy Saving Recommended products don't necessarily cost more than comparable, inefficient ones.  An EER fridge-freezer could save you 230 kg of CO2 and £35 a year.  Upgrading the UK's fridges and freezers to energy-saving ones would save 6 million tonnes of CO2 every year - enough to fill 35 million double-decker buses!   We would save over £950 million worth of energy annually.
The most efficient fridges and freezers are now carry the A++ rating under the ESR* label.  

*For refrigeration and laundry appliances the ESR logo complements the European Union Energy Label, which shows how much energy an appliance uses on a scale of A to G (A is most efficient, G is least).  The most efficient fridges and freezers are now A++.   (Info from Energy Saving Trust)




Products with the energy saving logo meet energy efficiency criteria set by the Energy Saving Trust, backed by Government.  EST can help find a local retailer.








Energy Saving Trust Ltd
Tel 0207 222 0101  Fax 0207 654 2444  
Website www.est.org.uk or www.energysavingtrust.co.uk   Email info@est.co.uk 
21 Dartmouth Street, LONDON SW1H 9BP

Government funded non-profit company set up after the 1992 Earth Summit to promote and deliver sustainable and renewable energy solutions to households, small firms and the road transport sector (creating a market for clean fuel vehicles).  One of UK's leading organisations fighting to combat climate change - the website has much useful info, an interactive tool and factsheets - and to help meet government targets following 1997 Kyoto conference.  Grant support, advice and technical information on energy efficiency schemes for homes and businesses to achieve social, environmental and economic benefits.  Advice on insulation and generating your own energy.  (Also see Windsave below.)  For info on grants to help install photovoltaics (£20m available from government) see www.solarpvgrants.co.uk or Tel 0800 298 3978.  Supports network of local energy advice centres giving expert impartial advice about saving energy, for domestic or small business consumers - you can search on the website for your local centre.   Also see www.saveenergy.co.ukTransport Energy,a division of Energy Saving Trust, was developed in 1996 with funding from government as well as private sector.  A best practice programme aiming to reduce greenhouse and other emissions from road transport and improve air quality in towns.  Impartial information and practical advice on reducing business mileage, fleet costs and converting to greener fuels.  Website has map showing where to refuel LPG vehicles.  Over 1300 fuel stations across the UK sell cleaner fuels.  Powershift maintains an up-to-date list.  Powershift aims to get cleaner vehicles on the road.  Offers grants to individuals and fleet managers to cut costs of conversion (whether for liquid petroleum gas, natural gas, electric or hybrid vehicles) or to buy a new vehicle.  Costs will soon be recouped in cheaper fuel bills.  Website gives details on converting vehicles.  Grant info at  Also useful info about developing travel plans for your organisation.   (Updated Nov 2005)

ESPO Catalogues

Tel 0116 265 7905 Fax 0116 265 7909
ESPO, Leicester Road, Glenfield, LEICESTER LE3 8RT

Trading catalogue for educational bodies listing stationery, office equipment, hardware, energy, food, highways and vehicles. Separate catalogue for furniture. Main areas covered are Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Warwickshire. Symbols indicate products which are recycled, environment friendly, energy saving, or compliance with EU directives, and small panels give additional environmental information.

Essential Trading Co-operative Ltd
Tel  0117 958 3550 / Sales 0845 458 0201  Fax 0 117 958 3551
Unit 3, Lodge Causeway Trading Estate, Fishponds, BRISTOL BS16 3JB
Website www.essential-trading.coop  Email contact-us@essential-trading.coop 

Workers' co-operative (about 100 staff) actively committed to ethical trading and preserving local biodiversity.  Wholesaler to the trade.  Links page shows organic labelling scheme symbols with brief descriptions.  Cash & carry open 9-5.30: over 6000 product lines.  No artificial flavours, colour or sweeteners in any products.  Wide range of organic and fair traded choices.  Supplies 100% vegetarian and also vegan produce.  Many products, including Essential own brand, listed on website, which also carries principles of organic agriculture and processing; of trading ethics; and of co-ops.  Supplies 40 retailers, including Richmond and Chiswick in London area; Lymington, Hants; and Oxford.  Ring for nearest supplier.  (Updated Dec 2004)

Fairtrade Foundation
Tel  0207 405 5942  Fax 0207 405 5943
Website www.fairtrade.org.uk  Email  mail@fairtrade.org.uk 
Room 204, 16 Baldwin's Gardens,  LONDON EC1N 7RJ

International body 'cutting out the middleman' and buying direct from farmers, ensuring small suppliers get a fair price for their work, and also investing in the local community.  Many farmers or producers in the developing world may not otherwise receive enough to cover the costs of producing their crop or goods.  Sets international standards, administering the Fairtrade label.  360 Fairtrade certified producer groups in 40 countries.  18 countries license the Fairtrade mark.  Products available in supermarkets and many independent shops - supplier lists on website.  Quarterly Fair Comment newsletter; reports, education packs, catering directory, events, ethical funds.  Founding member of the Trade Justice movement.  Contact for the Fairtrade Labelling Board: Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO), Kaiser Friedrich Strasse 13, D 53113 Bonn, Germany (Tel +49 228 949 2311, Email info@fairtrade.net, Website www.fairtrade.net(Updated July 2004)

Tel 01608 652 895  Fax 01608 652 878
info@fern.org   Website www.fern.org
1c Fosseway Business Centre, Stratford Road, MORETON-IN-MARSH, Glos GL56 9NQ
Contact Sara Horsley

Forests and the European Union Resource Network is a non-government, international campaigning organisation created in 1995 by the World Rainforest Movement. Aims to prevent illegal logging trade. Promotes conservation and sustainable use of forests and respect for the rights of forest peoples in EU policy and practice through EU Forest Watch. Emphasis on tropical forests - helps indigenous peoples present their cases to the EU.  Other main campaign areas are climate change (including SinksWatch, monitoring connections between timber extraction and carbon emissions); certification and labelling of sustainably produced timber; export credit agencies; WTO and trade agreements, intergovernmental agendas; aid and development co-operation.  EU Forest Bulletin and other publications. Co-ordinates several NGO networks, working co-operatively for change. Office in Brussels. Board member of Forest Stewardship Council.  (Updated Nov 2003)


Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Tel 01686 413916  Fax 01686 412176
FSC UK Working Group
Room 8, 11-13 Great Oak Street , LLANIDLOES, Powys, Wales SY18 6EB
Website www.fsc-uk.org  Email info@fsc-uk.org
Contact  Ms Anna Jenkins

Named by the Green Claims Code as an example of "What a green claim should be", FSC is a labelling system for wood indicating that it comes from responsibly managed forests.  FSC is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993 in response to growing public demand.  It is an association of members, currently 307 from 50 countries (January 1999) representing environmental and social organisations, the timber trade and forestry industry.  To ensure independence, FSC is funded only by non-commercial donations, and fees for accreditation and membership.  FSC principles of forest management include: recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and workers; conservation of biodiversity including water and soil, maintenance of the ecological functions of the forest; monitoring of the forest's yield and condition, social impacts; conservation of primary forests and sites of major environmental, social or cultural significance; and adherence to management principles for plantations which reduce pressure on natural forests.  Total certified area in the UK is 16,268 ha, and 12,690,848 ha globally (January 1999).  Through extensive consultation a set of standards has been developed for certifying management of British woodlands.  Accredited certification bodies in the UK are the Soil Association, Tel 0117 914 2435 (see section 440) and SGS Qualifor, Tel 01865 201212 (see below).  Over 2,000 FSC labelled products are on sale in the UK.  FSC can supply comprehensive information on sources of certified timber species and suppliers of certified wooden products worldwide.

The WWF 1995+ Group, a separate but related initiative set up in 1991, is a partnership between WWF-UK and 90 major UK companies committed to buying timber and wood products independently certified by schemes such as FSC.  Info from Catherine Graham, Tel 01483 419278, WWF UK, Branksome House, Filmer Grove, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1AB, Email cgraham@wwfnet.org(Updated May 2005)

HMSO Register of Recycled Paper & Paper Products

Tel 0207 873 9090 Fax 0207 873 8200
The Stationery Office, PO Box 276, LONDON SW8 5DT

The Stationery Office is the largest commercial buyer of paper in the UK. This register, produced when it was still called HMSO, is concerned with the environmental impact of products, and the importance of recycled content. It uses a widely accepted point awarding system according to type and percentage of waste used, with maximum score of 100 representing 100% post consumer waste fibre content. Mill waste (virgin fibre trimmings etc) scores 50. The Register, last published July 1995, lists products with their ranking. Price £7.50 from most booksellers, or by mail order post free from the above address.

National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM)

Tel 01932 569797 Fax 01932 569749
Hamilton Court, Gogmore Lane, CHERTSEY, Surrey KT16 9AP

Proprietors of the NAPM approved recycled paper mark, now accredited to over 160 British brands. Its use indicates that the product contains a minimum 75% of post-mill waste.

National Consumer Council 

Tel: 0207 730 3469  Fax 0207 730 0191
20 Grosvenor Gardens, LONDON SW1W 0DH 
E-mail: info@ncc.org.uk  Website: www.ncc.org.uk  

Provides information on eco-labelling in two reports: The Green Claims Code: Is It Working? and Consumers and the Environment.  The NCC is a non-profit body with no statutory powers and does not give advice, but promotes the interests of consumers through research, supporting consumer representatives and working with decision-makers to campaign for change.  (Updated Nov 2002)

Soil Association
Tel 0117 929 0661 Fax 0117 925 2504 E-mail
info@soilassociation.org                    website www.soilassociation.org
Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria St, Bristol, BRISTOL BS1 6BY

UK's leading campaigning membership charity and certification body, established over 50 years, for organic growers, campaigning to increase organic food and farming.  Develops and provides practical and sustainable solutions combining food production, environmental protection and human health.  In common with many EC approved bodies, monitors standards of members through annual inspection of holdings to ensure non-use of artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides, or genetic modification.  Those complying are entitled to use the 'Soil Association Organic Standard' environmental label.  The UK Organic Ethical Trade Symbol shows that organic standards have been met, farmers and others in the supply chain have received a fair price, workers are fairly treated and farms are involved in community schemes such as recycling, composting or profit-sharing.  Publishes an annual directory of farm shops and box distribution schemes, and magazine 'Living Earth'.  Also acts as accreditation body for Forestry Stewardship Council (see separate entry), and awards its own Soil Association Woodmark - a sustainable management certificate.  Planning The Millenium Farm Network - 100 organic farms across the UK, open to all.  The address is shared with The British Organic Farmers Association, Tel 0117 929 9666, joint publisher of the magazine 'New Farmer & Grower'(Updated Aug 2005)

SGS Forestry

Tel 01865 201212 Fax 01865 790441
QUALIFOR Certification Programme (Oxford), Oxford Centre for Innovation, Mill Street, OXFORD OX2 0JX
Website www.sgs.co.uk/qualifor

Accredited certification body for the Forestry Stewardship Council (see separate entry). Research and monitoring to establish that wood products are from responsibly managed forests which conserve biodiversity and respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Organises courses on achieving forest certification for those with environmental responsibilities working in a forestry organisation and implementing chains of custody. Through LogTrack, monitor application of stock control movements to assist Customs operations worldwide in data capture and revenue collection.

UK Ecolabelling Board
Tel 0207 890 6576 Fax 0207 890 6559
DETR, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6DE
Web Site http://europa.eu.int/en/comm/dg11/ecolabel E-mail michael.jones@ukeb.demon.co.uk

Public body administering the EU Eco-labelling scheme, set up: 1) to promote the design, production, marketing and use of consumer products that have reduced environmental impact during their entire lifecycle; 2) to provide consumers with better information on the environmental impact of products. It does not cover food, drink or pharmaceutical products. A consultation forum, consisting of community level representatives of industry, retailers, environmentalists, consumers and trade unions, meets to define product groups and environmental criteria; assess applications for an ecolabel; conclude contracts with successful applicants; promote the scheme and handle public and business enquiries. Applications may be made by UK manufacturers, or supporters of a product from outside the EU who submit relevant test certificates and a non-returnable fee of £500. If an eco-label is awarded (usually for three years initially) an annual licence fee of 0.15% of EU sales value is payable. The EU website lists product groups, awards, contacts, how to apply for an eco-label, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Wood Purchase Policy Joint Initiative
Tel/Fax 01963 350719 E-mail
Rachel Shotton, WWF, PO Box 2122, CASTLE CARY, Somerset BA7 7YF

All UK local authorities have been invited to join this project by WWF and The Soil Association. Project, set up to help local authorities source their timber from independently certified forests. Draft policy documents, technical advice and sourcing information will be provided free to local authorities joining the project. Adoption of certified timber-buying policies by councils should encourage more local timber merchants to seek FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified timber. For general information, contact Rachel Shotton; for technical information, contact Rod Nelson, The Soil Association, 86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB, Tel 01179 290661, Fax 01179 252504, Email rfp@gn.apc.org