Sustainable living has become big in the last few years. More and more people are choosing to live a low-impact lifestyle in an effort to save the environment. With this, the number of companies that market themselves as “sustainable” have also grown.
As a consumer, you need to be wary of the eco-friendly products you buy as some of them could have undergone greenwashing. This is when a company markets a product as green and environmentally-friendly when it’s really not. They may not be certified by the appropriate vetting organizations or they’re simply using advertising jargon to allure well-meaning customers.
For a company to be truly sustainable, they need to have proper eco-certifications. Keep reading to find out how companies acquire these.
- Finding the right Independent, third-party labeling groups
There are numerous eco-labeling organizations that specialize in different types of products. For example, there’s the Chlorine Free Products Association which certifies products that are chlorine-free, ENERGY STAR certification is for appliances, electronics, and home systems that are energy efficient, Greenguard Gold Certifications for mattress companies, and so on.
Depending on what product the company is selling, they need to have the appropriate eco-certification from these organizations. These eco-label companies have been verified by the U.S. Small Business Administration so you can guarantee that products with these labels are reliable.
- Assessing certain aspects
There has been a significant increase in labels that assess specific aspects; companies can take advantage by getting certified for one aspect provided they meet the standards.
Fashion, for example, is one of the most exploitative industries at the moment. People living in third-world countries that work in fast fashion factories are not paid a fair wage and they often have to perform their job under poor working conditions. A clothing company that pays their employees fair wages can get certified for that one attribute. Then they may also get a different certification for using only natural materials.
Again, depending on what products a company sells, they can get specific certifications that indicate they are eco-friendly.
- Regular audits
Over time, a company’s procedure for creating their products may change. This means that regular audits need to be made by these agencies to ensure that they are still meeting the required environmental standards.
When these standards are not met, a company may have to pay civil penalties. An example is Walmart when they had to pay over $900,000 in fines for labeling “biodegradable” on some of their products.
- Additional certifications
In addition to maintaining environmental standards, a company can also get additional certifications. This is important especially if some part of the manufacturing process has been changed. It can give a company more edge and attract customers who wish to live a more sustainable life.
- Government role in green procurement
As sustainable living becomes mainstream, governments are also jumping onboard to encourage the public to consume eco-friendly goods. In Japan, there are several incentives for public sector organizations that opt to use eco-friendly products. In some parts of the United States, schools and hospitals are required to use products that have Type 1 ecolabels. The role of government is very important here because it also gives companies a reason to shift towards being more eco-friendly.
- Avoid fraudulent agencies
A number of firms have taken advantage of the eco-labeling trend. They will simply accept the certification fee without checking whether the company meets their sustainability standards. It’s easy money and the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on this to prevent deceptive green advertising claims from being made. Companies who seek certification should also be wary of these agencies and do their own research before getting certified.
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