EU ecolabel scheme "turning the corner"

New regulations set operational rules for consumer labelling initiative; reduce participation fees

Revision of the EU's ecolabelling scheme has been all but completed with recent adoption by the European Commission of four regulations to implement new rules agreed by governments earlier this year (ENDS Daily 3 July). The regulations determine the scheme's fee structure and set up an ecolabelling board and consultative forum.

The revision was launched due to disappointing performance by the EU's "flower" scheme compared with well-established competition from regional labels, particularly in Germany and the Nordic countries. Only around 60 companies have applied to have their goods certified under the scheme - a tiny figure compared with Germany's Blue Angel, for instance.

Nevertheless, the number of companies applying for the flower is double the figure a year ago, according to European Commission officials, who are now predicting further growth. "We're turning a corner. I'm quite optimistic," said one.

The introduction of a cap on fees payable by businesses applying to have their goods or services certified is expected to be an important factor. Fees are charged at 0.15% of the value of ecolabelled products sold, but whereas this charge was previously open-ended, it is now limited to a maximum of euros 25,000.

The cap is enhanced by a new possibility of discounts for small businesses, developing country manufacturers and those already certified to the EMAS environmental management standard, officials say.

The Commission has now begun to elaborate a working plan which will set quantitative targets for the growth of the scheme and single out new product sectors for development of label criteria. Early targets include televisions, hard floor coverings, detergents and vacuum cleaners.

Nevertheless, the scheme still faces several hurdles. It has made little impact in sectors dominated by a few large companies, for example. In addition, some existing ecolabel criteria are so stringent that virtually no firms can apply for them. Until recently, for instance, no washing machines on the EU market met the standards, while less than 1% of light bulbs qualify.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and its ecolabel pages, including the texts of the regulations.

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