Example of Eco-Labels“Wild West” of eco-labels sustainability claims are confusing consumers. Because of the consumer pressure on companies to produce products that are more eco-friendly, product manufacturers are coming up with new terms to describe their eco-friendly products. So far over 450 eco-labels have been used across some 25 product sectors. Eggs, for example, have eco-labels that include terms such as grass-fed, vegetarian-fed, whole grain-fed, antibiotic-free, biodynamic, hormone-free, irradiated, natural, organic and pasteurized.

Eco-Labels are Confusing and Unregulated

For consumers, this can cause confusion because it is difficult to know what each term means. It is also a mostly unregulated arena, so there is no way to tell if the manufacturer’s claims are true or otherwise misleading to attempt to gain customer approval. Consumer’s tend to have faith in the statements made on the eco-labels, but without independent third party verification, such claims can be without merit.

Consumers tend to have more faith in eco-labels that have some connection to government approval or some independent third party organization’s seal of approval. For example, products with Energy Star labels must meet Environmental Protection Agency specifications to earn that label, and the consumer is better assured that the product meets the criteria claimed. But in an unregulated eco-labeling universe, manufacturers can put virtually any such terms that sound eco-friendly but which in reality are not.

Consumers don’t know what they’re buying. There’s no protection because a company can market just about anything as green.” — Christopher Terry, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The full story can be found on the Guardian Sustainable Business webpage.

About the Author: Lauren Boitel

Lauren Boitel is the Executive Director of ImpactNV, a statewide sustainability NGO convener and coalition builder that drives systemic change around economic, environmental, and social sustainability in the Silver State. Lauren has 12 years of experience as a Sustainability Professional in Southern Nevada and teaches Sustainability & Entrepreneurship for the Lee Business School at UNLV.

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