Submitted: The Two Sides Team April 15, 2013
To ensure that environmental claims for paper products are accurate and verifiable, companies can turn to ISO Type I environmental claims to guide their eco-labeling efforts, said Phil Riebel, President and CEO of Two Sides U.S. Inc., in an i2live webinar entitled, Paper ProductsEnvironmental Marketing Best Practices, on April 10. Our argument was that many of the claims were misleading to consumers and were not backed up by credible facts, Riebel said. Accurate claims are important to gain the trust of consumers and to establish a fair playing field in the competitive business world.
Our argument was that many of the claims were misleading to consumers and were not backed up by credible facts, Riebel said. Accurate claims are important to gain the trust of consumers and to establish a fair playing field in the competitive business world.
Two Sides entered into environmental marketing because of a 2009 U.K. campaign that challenged claims used by leading banks, utilities and telecoms to encourage customers to switch from paper to lower-cost electronic billing, he said. The groups efforts led to 80% of the challenged marketplace claims to be removed. A campaign in the U.S. was subsequently launched in July 2012, which has so far contacted 54 companies, resulting in eight removing or modifying environmental claims.
Riebel cited a TerraChoice report showing more than 95% of greener products committed at least one of the so-called Seven Sins of Greenwashing, noting that the most common one is the Sin of No Proofthe use of environmental claims that cant be easily substantiated by accessible and reliable information.
Riebel recommends that companies follow guidelines issued by their respective countries, such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commissions Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims or the Competition Bureau of Canadas Environmental Claims: A Guide for Industry and Advertisers.
Riebel also highlighted the voluntary standards of ISO 14020 Environmental labels and declarations general principles, which spell out best practices on how to use environmental claims. In his presentation, he focused on two of the three ISO environmental claimsType I and Type II.
To obtain the Type I claim (ISO 14024: 1999), a third party such as a government body or a private company must independently verify the product based on life cycle impacts, after which it could receive the Seal of Approval or eco-label. Such labels for paper products include the Green Seal in the U.S., the EcoLogo in North America, the EU Ecolabel, the China Environmental Label, and the Blue Angel in Germany, representing the worlds most popular labels. Roughly 10,000-20,000 products are certified under each of these labels, Riebel said.
Certifications that look at a single issue include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Sustainble Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Green E label for renewable energy.
From an environmental perspective, its better to have an eco-label that covers the whole life cycle of a product, Riebel said. However, there are some very reliable third-party labels that cover single issues and they can be very useful to address topics such as forest management and the traceability of fiber from the forest to the final product.
Meanwhile, the less stringent Type II claim (ISO 14021: 1999) doesnt require independent verification or certification by a third party and is usually based on a single environmental attribute without taking the impact of a products entire life cycle into account, Riebel said.
However, the standard prohibits environmental claims that are vague or nonspecific or which broadly imply that a product is environmentally beneficial or benign. Still, there is a higher risk of greenwashing and less accurate claims, Riebel said. An example of a Type II claim is the Mobius loop or the recycling symbol, which is self-declared by the company.
Even a good Type II claim will never provide the same guarantee and reliability of a Type I claim, Riebel said. Type II declarations should be based on competent and reliable scientific evidence environmental benefits shouldnt be overstated or generalized across product types.
However, Type I claims that cover a paper products life cycle, such as EcoLogo and EcoLabel, are not easy to obtain, maybe only 20% of the companies can achieve some of these, said Riebel, citing the rigorous auditing and transparent standard of scoring such a label.
However, once a company obtains such a high standard in good environmental performance, it should also educate consumers about what the logo means, Riebel said.
Most people have no idea what these logos are if you just provide the logo, he said. It needs a bit of description, some easy points that outline what the logo stands for.