Can You Trust the Label?


Credit: Jamie Tufrey

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A Label You Can Trust

So when you're buying food, cosmetics, or even appliances, how do you know if the claims on the box are legitimate?

Fortunately, there are reputable organisations that scrutinise and administer labels relating to a product's environmental standard (commonly called 'ecolabels').

These organisations can be independent, industry-sponsored, federal or state departments, or government-approved bodies.

And while they can't weed out all the pretenders or stop unscrupulous marketers from creating logos that look like they have substance when they do not, knowing which labels are worth your attention is a good start.

One of the most long-standing and well-regarded ecolabels is controlled by Good Environmental Choice — Australia (GECA).

Petar Johnson is the chairman of this national, not-for-profit, independent organisation that had its beginnings (as the Australian Environmental Labelling Association) in 1994.

"Retailers have a responsibility to ensure that products they stock with environmental claims are actually making honest declarations. This is not currently happening," he says.

"The challenge is to ensure the new green demand shifts the market. For this to occur, consumers need to be properly informed of the environmental attributes of products so they know which ones are genuinely greener."

Based in Canberra, GECA operates a voluntary labelling program — the Australian Environmental Certification Program.

GECA's program looks at the environmental impacts that occur during the life cycle (that is, production, consumption and disposal) of a range of consumer and building products.

They give their approval to goods that comply with guidelines set by the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) and International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Government audits check they meet these guidelines, and regular review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) keeps labellers on their toes.

GECA's labels are issued to companies for a period of two to five years, depending on the type of product, with one audit conducted during that time. To date, GECA has certified more than 400 products.

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