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Quality Insider

How Green Is Green?

Free ISO brochure explains ISO 14020 for environmental labels and declarations

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 17:01

A new ISO brochure will help both manufacturers and consumer representatives understand how a simple set of rules and guidelines provided by ISO standards can ensure that environmental claims made on products or labels can be trusted.

The free brochure, “Environmental labels and declarations—How ISO standards can help,” gives a concise and clear introduction to the ISO 14020 standard dealing with different aspects of environmental labels and declarations.

The brochure has been written by leading experts from the ISO technical committee (ISO/TC) 207—Environmental management. In the brochure’s introduction, the authors write, “With the relentless focus on climate change and health, consumers are becoming more interested in less tangible product attributes such as the ethical and environmental aspects of a product’s production and supply. In response to this, manufacturers often voluntarily choose to provide information concerning the environmental aspects of their products on labeling and in advertising.

“In short, the environmental benefits of a company’s products, such as recyclability of packaging, are part of its overall marketing strategy. Smart businesses are making a virtue out of necessity by promoting the environmental features of their products. Getting a market benefit through environmental labeling makes sense, particularly where companies have made the investment in environmental improvement and putting environmental management systems in place.”

The problem is that such information can leave a lot to be desired. It may be may be scientifically inaccurate, or even when accurate, it’s confusing to the consumer.

Does any of this matter?

“Well, consumers can only express their preferences through their purchasing decisions if they have access to accurate, comparable information,” say the authors. “Consumers have the power to stimulate manufacturers to innovate because manufacturers may hope that improved environmental performance communicated to consumers means increased market share.”

In response to consumer demand, environmental labeling is increasingly used on products and in advertising. ISO 14020 provides a globally recognized and credible set of international benchmarks against which businesses can prepare their environmental labels.

The brochure presents ISO 14020 in clear and simple language to help manufacturers and consumer associations decide whether the standards can help advance their converging objective of informing the consumer in an accurate and understandable way.

The brochure, “Environmental labels and declarations—How ISO standards can help,” published in English and French, is available free as a PDF you can download here, or from the ISO Store.


About The Author

ISO’s picture


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.