The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 349–354

The ecolabel and sustainable development

InLCA: Eco-Labeling And Purchasing



The goal of the different national and supranational ecolabelling programs is to encourage consumers to choose products which are the least damaging to the environment. It is clear that the involvement of product and service users is essential to the establishment of sustainable consumption patterns. For this reason, ecolabelling must necessarily limit any risks of uncertainty. To this end, labels must take into account all the impacts of a product’s life cycle and use a reliable and verifiable evaluation method.

In general, the organizations in charge of ecolabelling programs claim that a multi-criteria approach is used to define the exact labelling criteria appropriate for the product categories in question. These organizations generally maintain that their approach is based on the completion of exhaustive and complete life cycle analyses, which take into account all of the impacts caused by a product throughout its life cycle. And yet, the real situation is often far less clear-cut, and these simplified approaches, which tend to reconcile economic realism and methodological coherence, constitute the usual procedure for criteria definition.

Thus, the procedures involved in criteria development often rely on a ‘semi-qualitative’ approach to the life cycle which uses both qualitative and quantitative data in order to identify the product’s significant stages on the environment.

Presently, the ecolabel is a ‘non-verifiable expert property’ for the consumer. The ecolabel’s lack of objectivity in its criteria and its lack of transparency, resulting from non standardized methods whose accuracy cannot be measured, can only damage this sustainable development tool’s credibility. In effect, the primary hindrance to ecolabel development lies precisely within this difficulty of finding a compromise between economic feasibility and the scientific and methodological rigor which are indispensable to the label’s credibility and veracity.


Ecolabel environmental declarations environmental labels 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Case DW (2001): The Law and Economics of Environmental Information as Regulation, 31 E.L.R., Washington, D.C., 7-2001, 10773–10789Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Sinclair-Desgagné, Goziah E (2003): A Theory of Environmental Risk Disclosure. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 45, 377–393; Tietenberg T, Wheeler D (2001): Empowering the Community Information Strategies for Pollution Control, in Folmer H, Gabel HL, Gerking S, Rose A (eds) (2001): Frontiers of Environmental Economics, Edward Elgar, Northampton, MACrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Case DW (2001): The Law and Economics of Environmental Information as Regulation. 31 E.L.R., Washington, D.C., 7-2001, 10773–10789Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Royon M (1998): L’émergence de systèmes nationaux de normalisation-certification et leur connexion internationale. Revue internationale de droit économique, no 3, 107–117Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Chavagneux C (1998): La montée en puissance des acteurs non- étatiques. In: Jacquet P, Pisani-Ferry J, Tubiana L (eds): Gouvernance mondiale: Rapport de synthèse, Paris, la Documentation française, Conseil d’analyse économique; Cutler AC, Haufler V, Porter T (eds): Private Authority and International Affairs, New York; Suny Press; J.-C. GRAZ, Beyond States and Markets: Comparative and Global Political Economy in the Age of Hybrids. Review of International Political Economy 8 (4) 739-748Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Boy L (1998): La valeur juridique de la normalisation, in Clam J, Martin G (1998): Les transformations de la régulation juridique, L.G.D.J., Paris, 183; Boy L (1998): Normes. Revue internationale de droit économique (RIDE), no 2Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Graz J-C (2003): La démocratie entrepreneuriale de la normalisation internationale. Presentation at the Colloque international d’Aix-en-Provence, 11–14 septembre 2003, Les normes internationales au XXIe siècle: science politique, philosophie, droitGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Labeling and Environmental Declarations - Type 1 Environmental Labeling, International Organization for StandardizationGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 6.1 Methods, GeneralitiesGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 6.1 Methods, Generalities. ISO 14024 (1999): Section 6.2 Consultation of Interested PartiesGoogle Scholar
  11. [11]
    Boeglin N (1998): Analyse du cycle de vie: 1a promotion de la qualité écologique des produits et les écolabels. Traité de génie industriel, Techniques de l’ingénieur, Bruxelles, p G6250-4, 7Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 6.3 Product Category Selection - Carrying Out a Feasibility StudyGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Boy L (1998):L’éco-label communautaire, un exemple de droit postmoderne. Revue internationale de droit économique (R.I.D.E.),69, 70Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 5.4 Taking the Life Cycle into AccountGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    Boeglin N (1998): Analyse du cycle de vie: La promotion de la qualité écologique des produits et les écolabels, loc.cit., note 11, pp 6250–6254Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    OCDE, Étiquetage écologique: effets réels de certains programmes (OCDE/GD(97)105), 1997, p 26 excerpt from the OCDE web siteGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 6.4.1 Choosing Environmental Criteria for ProductsGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Richemont DE (1998): Analyse du cycle de vie, applications dans les écolabels. Traité de génie industriel, Techniques de l’ingénieur, Bruxelles, G5 850, 7; Tanguay F (1996): Maquillage vert ou développement durable: l’entreprise relèvera-t-elle le défi?, in Gendron C, Provost M (dir.) (1996): Entreprise et développement durable, opérationnaliser le développement durable au sein de l’entreprise, Actes du colloque de l’ACFAS, Montréal, 247, 1996Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 7.4.3 Evaluation Methods and Demonstration of Compliance - Supporting DocumentationGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    ISO 14024 (1999): Section 7.5 Supervision of ComplianceGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    ISO 14024 (1997): Section 5.8.1 - Validity of Program Requirements - Validity Period; see Nadaï A (1997): Les conditions de développement d’un écolabel communautaire, Responsabilité et environnement, Annales des Mines, juillet 1997, 15, p 16Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    Boy L (1998): L’éco-label communautaire, un exemple de droit postmoderne, loc. cit., note 6, p 92Google Scholar
  23. [23]
    Priest M (1997-1998):The privatization of regulation: five models of self-regulation, Ottawa Law Review 29 (2) 233–267Google Scholar
  24. [24]
    ISO 14021 (1999): Environmental labeling declarations - Self- declared environmental claims (Type II Labels)Google Scholar
  25. [25]
    Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act (1985): ch. C-38Google Scholar
  26. [26]
    Federal Trade Commission Act (1996): Section 5, 15 U.S.C. § 41–58Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    ISO 14025 (2000): Environmental Labels and Declarations, Type III Environmental Declarations, International Organization for StandardizationGoogle Scholar
  28. [28]
    Veilleux L (1998): èco-étiquetage: Les programmes de certification et l’industrie des pâtes et papiers, Research Report presented at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, December 1998Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Pontier JM (1996): La certification, outil de la modernité normative. D., 1996, chr. 355, spéc, p. 356; see also: Racine J-B: Normalisation, certification et droit de la concurrence,. R.I.D.E., no 2, 1998; Rampht C (1997): Les systèmes de normalisation et de spécifications dans les appels d’offres internationaux, Rapport du Conseil èconomique et social, J.O., 17 avril 1997Google Scholar

Copyright information

© ecomed publishers, D-86899 Landsberg, Germany and Ft. Worth/TX 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawLaval UniversityQuébecCanada
  2. 2.School of Industrial DesignUniversity of MontrealMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations