Nordic Swan ecolabel scheme takes wing

10-year review process starts with report showing regional scheme going from strength to strength

The Nordic Swan has become the pre-eminent ecolabel in the Scandinavian region beating its more recent EU competitor hands down, according to a report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Published earlier this month by the Swedish Consumer Agency to mark the 10th anniversary of the scheme, the report is the first in a series leading up to a major review at the end of 2000. It found that awareness of and confidence in the label was highest in Sweden, Finland and Norway, where between 61% and 75% of consumers surveyed spontaneously mentioned its name during interviews. The comparable figure for the EU ecolabel logo, the flower, was just 2%.

Danish consumers, moreover, have taken rapidly to the Swan, which was introduced on the domestic market only two years ago after a long period when the country had observer status in the project. Only 18% of Danes spontaneously named the Swan to interviewers, but the report also refers to a separate national survey in which 52% of respondents recognised its symbol. This was up from 37% in 1997, an increase attributed to high environmental consciousness, and officials hope a vigorous marketing campaign will boost recognition to 70% next year.

Only in Iceland has the Swan not made a breakthrough, although it is still the best-known label there, the report finds. In both Sweden and Denmark there is considerable competition from national labels, organised by the national society for nature conservation and for organic produce respectively.

The report, based on interviews with focus groups and Gallup surveys of 3,590 people, analyses in detail consumers' attitudes towards ecolabelling. Knowledge was greatest among the under 29s, in higher income groups and among the more highly educated. The biggest hindrance to future growth, says the report, is the widespread perception that ecolabelled products are more expensive.

Three other reports commissioned by the Nordic Council, for completion next autumn, will evaluate the environmental impact of ecolabelling and its effect on companies' activities, the economics of the scheme and an overview comparing it with other national and international schemes.

Follow Up:
Nordic Council, +45 33 96 02 00; Swedish Consumer Agency, tel: +46 8 429 0500; Swedish Standards Agency Ecolabelling page, for information on the Nordic Swan and links to other agencies behind the scheme.

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