Assessment of Eco-labelling Criteria Development from a Strategic Sustainability Perspective

Document type: Journal Articles
Article type: Original article
Peer reviewed: Yes
Full text:
Author(s): Cecilia Bratt, Sophie Hallstedt, Göran Broman, Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Jonas Oldmark
Title: Assessment of Eco-labelling Criteria Development from a Strategic Sustainability Perspective
Journal: Journal of Cleaner Production
Year: 2011
Volume: 19
Issue: 14
ISSN: 0959-6526
Publisher: Elsevier
URI/DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.05.012
ISI number: 000293260400008
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Engineering - Dept. of Mechanical Engineering (Sektionen för ingenjörsvetenskap - avd. för maskinteknik)
School of Engineering S- 371 79 Karlskrona, School of Engineering S- 371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
Authors e-mail:
Language: English
Abstract: To turn current patterns of consumption and production in a sustainable direction, solid and understandable market information on the socio-ecological performance of products is needed. Eco-labelling programmes have an important role in this communication. The aim of this study is to investigate what gaps there may be in the current criteria development processes in relation to a strategic sustainability perspective and develop recommendations on how such presumptive gaps could be bridged. First a previously published generic framework for strategic sustainable development is described and applied for the assessment of two eco-labelling programmes. Data for the assessment is collected from literature and in semi-structured interviews and discussions with eco-labelling experts.
The assessment revealed that the programmes lack both an operational definition of sustainability, and a statement of objectives to direct and drive the criteria development processes. Consequently they also lack guidelines for how product category criteria might gradually develop in any direction. The selected criteria mainly reflect the current reality based on a selection of negative impacts in ecosystems, but how this selection, or prioritization, is made is not clearly presented. Finally, there are no guidelines to ensure that the criteria developers represent a broad enough competence to embrace all essential sustainability aspects.
In conclusion the results point at deficiencies in theory, process and practice of eco-labelling, which hampers cohesiveness, transparency and comprehension. And it hampers predictability, as producers get no support in foreseeing how coming revisions of criteria will develop. This represents a lost opportunity for strategic sustainable development. It is suggested that these problems could be avoided by informing the criteria development process by a framework for strategic sustainable development, based on backcasting from basic sustainability principles.
Subject: Sustainability\General
Keywords: Sustainability, Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, Sustainable Consumption and Production, Eco-labelling