As the leaders from 170 countries gathered in Paris to confirm their targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the chair of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), Bjorn-Erik Lonn, says that over 50 countries and territories already have an existing tool which can help.
Ecolabels, by definition, have been established to minimise environmental impact. They do this by empowering each and every consumer to make an easy, conscious choice when purchasing a product or service by cutting through greenwash and verifying environmental performance. They also guide government procurement in many countries, and influence manufacturers to make greener products. Their increased use, says Mr Lonn, is one of the fastest ways to address the state of the environment, and it comes without a large bill or political challenges.
In the EU alone, public procurement amounts to almost 2000 billion Euros per year – around 20 percent of the region’s total GDP.
Beginning in 2015, a number of third party environmental and social sustainability certification programs have joined forces to challenge public buyers to be more proactive in driving sustainability issues as part of their purchasing programs. The campaign, called Modern Procurement – #ModPro, or #ModUpp in Swedish – calls for public purchasers to ensure the responsible use of public funds, while at the same time contributing to sustainable development as part of their purchasing programs.
In 2014 the EU Parliament published a new public purchasing directive that provides more opportunity – and in some cases obligation – for public sector institutions to include environmental and social responsibility criteria when procuring products and services.
To participate in the campaign, an organization adopts the goal that at least 50 purcent of purchased goods and services should be third party certified for environmental and social responsibility by the year 2020.
“Our members in many countries are actively influencing manufacturers and consumers to supply and buy products that lessen environmental impacts, including the biggest of them all which is global warming,” says Mr Lonn. “Last year, in countries from New Zealand to Norway, and across most continents, GEN members were responsible for licensing more than 298,000 products with proven potential to make an environmental difference.”
“GEN member ecolabelling programmes are developed under ISO standards and are already in place. We would suggest that stronger government green procurement policies should be considered as part of the suite to deliver on climate change action, along with more assistance for national programmes to develop and promote ecolabels. This is especially important in large, developing economies, as ecolabelling, once established, is largely funded through license fees paid by manufacturers that stand to benefit from gaining a competitive advantage. Some of our members are able to operate a self-funded model, while others are nested within government agencies.”