ISEAL develops new ‘credibility principles’ for ecolabels


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The standards should help separate credible ecolabels from 'greenwashing', ISEAL claims
The standards should help separate credible ecolabels from 'greenwashing', ISEAL claims

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Global certification association ISEAL Alliance has developed a set of principles for defining what makes an ecolabel, standard or certification credible.

According to the Ecolabel Index, there are now more than 400 ecolabels on the market – making a range of promises from protecting habitats to biodegradability. Meanwhile, companies are looking for ways to protect their reputation and avoid losing the trust of consumers, and some eco-symbols are widely recognised.

But ISEAL suggests that few people know what lies behind these labels. With the help of sustainability leaders involved in a year-long consultation process, it has established ten credibility principles on which such claims should be based to ensure there is a link between action and impact.

The credibility principles are: Sustainability. Improvement. Relevance. Rigour. Engagement. Impartiality. Transparency. Accessibility. Truthfulness. Efficiency. (More information on the principles is available here.)

Amy Jackson, senior credibility manager at ISEAL who led the public consultation on the principles said: “Assessing the long-term impacts of certification takes time, but if you know that a standards system is doing good work and can be trusted, you can reliably do business with them without having all the data in front of you.”

The consultation included NGOs, governments, businesses, producer groups, consumer organisations, and certification systems, and was overseen by a multi-stakeholder steering committee.

Executive director of ISEAL Karin Kreider explained: “A chocolate bar might have a label indicating that the cocoa beans were sustainably grown, but a supermarket’s procurement person can dig deeper thanks to the language of the ISEAL Credibility Principles, asking a standard-setting organisation if their system embraces relevance, for example, by addressing the main challenges in cocoa production, such as child labour and pesticides, or if they embrace the principle of improvement by having a monitoring system in place to measure whether their certification has a positive impact, such as poverty reduction or biodiversity conservation.”

The principles are intended to be applicable across industries, and are also intended to provide guidance to companies wishing to assess their own sustainability standards.

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