Environmental labels and standards

Environmental labels are one way of influencing environmental impacts. Their purpose is to help make environmentally friendly procurements and in this way influence consumer habits. Companies can also apply for various environmental labels and certificates for their operations in order to demonstrate the quality of their environmental work. Environmental labels can be national or international. In addition to official environmental labels, other environmental labels and certificates are available on the market, such as various carbon dioxide labels. Official environmental labels are a good way for companies to make procurements, as their lower environmental impacts have been certified by an independent body.

The following are some of the most widely used environmental labels and certificates in Finland:



The Nordic Environmental Label, or "Swan Label", provides information about the environmental impacts of commodities. Criteria has been drawn up for different product groups that take into consideration the consumption of natural resources and energy, harmful emissions and waste. These criteria assess the essential environmental impacts of a product during the various phases of its lifespan - production, distribution, use and disposal. The criteria for awarding the label are updated every three years, so products have to be developed to satisfy the new criteria.


Hotels and restaurants are examples of businesses that can apply for the Swan Label for their operations. The possibility of granting the label for the meetings and congress industry is also being considered. Environmental issues are considered in such activities as management, the environmental work of employees, the procurement of foodstuffs and fixtures, the conservation of energy and water, the use of chemicals, waste management, and transportation. These activities extend to outsourced services. The granting of the Swan Label is based on performing within limits, mandatory requirements, point systems and an inspection made by an independent assessor.

 


The EU Eco-label "Flower" as similar to the Swan Label. It is based on an assessment of the environmental impacts of a product over its entire lifespan. The EU Flower is granted only to products that comply with certain environmental criteria.


 


ENERGY STAR is an international labelling system that sets norms for energy efficient office and computer equipment.


ISO 14001 is an international environmental standard that is granted to companies who comply with certain criteria. It is applied to companies or chains that develop a high-quality and credible environmental system over the long term. Due to the strict assessment criteria, obtaining ISO 14001 certification can take a long time.

 


EMAS, The Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, is another international environmental system that is based on the EU EMAS Regulation (761/2001). All companies within EU and ETA Member States are eligible for the scheme. The difference between EMAS and ISO is the public environmental audit required by EMAS. In principle this amounts to an environmental report that has to be approved by an accredited auditor. Another difference is the legal requirement that environmental legislation must be adhered to, whereas the ISO system requires procedures that will fulfil legal requirements only within a certain amount of time. The third difference is the environmental audit that the EMAS system requires but that the ISO system only recommends.


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