Eco-labels lead the fight to green Europe’s consumption

Environmentally friendly products remain a niche market despite more than a decade of European commission efforts to support them through the EU’s Flower eco-label scheme. But the tide may be changing, finds François Le Goff
Europe’s Flower eco-label was launched in 1992 to bring environmentally friendly products to supermarket shelves. But it has only managed to attract a small number of European manufacturers. National labels such as Germany’s Blue Angel and the Nordic Swan have been more successful (see figure 1). But even so, the picture across the board is not positive. Environmental labels have had a low market uptake.
However, things might be about to change as eco-labelling is becoming increasingly popular among retailers keen to address public concerns about climate change. In June, French supermarket chain Casino followed in the footsteps of UK retailer Tesco by launching a carbon label for several own-brand products.
In July, the European commission unveiled a policy package that aims to green products manufactured in Europe. Among other things, the commission wants to extend the reach of existing EU eco-design rules, revise and enlarge product eco-labelling practices and set new mandatory green public procurement standards.
“A product made in Europe can only be successful in the future on the world market if it has not only quality standards but if it also is energy efficient and is good for the environment,” industry commissioner Günter Verheugen said. “European industry will retain competitiveness only if its products and services are the most sustainable”.

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