The ecolabel and sustainable development
- Cite this article as:
- Lavallée, S. & Plouffe, S. Int J LCA (2004) 9: 349. doi:10.1007/BF02979076
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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.