An environmental label or declaration that provides information about a product or service in terms of its overall environmental character, a specific environmental aspect or number of environmental aspects. The information can be used to influence or inform purchasing decisions. Eco-labels may take the form of a statement, symbol, or graphic and be found, in part, on products or packaging and in product literature or advertising.
Eco-labels are supported through first, second, or third-party certification. First-party claims are self-declarations that have not been independently tested or verified. Second-party claims may involve a conflict of interest (e.g. retailer branding of vendor products). Third-party claims are founded on independent testing and verification by a certification body that ensures: no financial or consulting conflict of interest and transparent processes and standards to ensure impartial and equal assessment.
The International Organization for Standardization has written standards that define types of environmental labels: Type I, Type II, and Type III.
Type I labels, defined in ISO 14024, indicate voluntary conformance to pre-determined, multi-attribute criteria that identify environmentally preferable products within a particular product category, based upon life cycle considerations. Type I labels are awarded by third-party public or private agencies. Examples include the Nordic Swan and Blue Angel labels in Europe.
Type II labels can be first, second, or third-party certified and focus on single attribute environmental claims such as energy consumption, indoor air quality, or recycled content. Examples include: Energy Star, WaterSense, Greenguard, and SCS Recycled Content.
Type III labels, often referred to as environmental product declarations (EPDs), provide comprehensive product information based on quantitative life cycle assessment. There is little adoption in the U.S of this type of eco-label at present, though Europe is increasingly requiring EPDs. Some examples of Type III eco-labels include efforts by Reveal (concept created by Presidio students) and SCS.