The global drive for sustainable sourcing of everyday food and consumer products has led to a myriad of ecolabels: 465 across 25 different industries.
Instigated by NGOs, ecolabels are based on agreed environmental and social standards or legislation, focusing on certain environmental aspects of the product—energy consumption, water use, source of timber—or they may encompass social standards—on child labour, forced labour or fair wages, for example.
The EU has developed legislation on ecolabelling, creating its own ecolabels, one for food and one for consumer products, while globally, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has created standards for labeling practices: ISO 14020 to 14025 series deal with varying levels of environmental labels and declarations.
Growth in certified production was strongest in the palm oil sector, which experienced 90 percent growth in 2012. Meanwhile, certified coffee, led in terms of market penetration, reached a 38 percent market share of global production in 2012.
With the proliferation of ecolabels comes greenwashing— the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.