Ecolabels and certifications can make sustainable procurement a lot easier. However, the market for ecolabels is both extensive and varied. As we have seen, it is important for purchasers to know the differences. Here’s three questions that will help you select an ecolabel that has the capacity of making the impact you aim for.

This text is part of our latest report, Impacts and Insights: Navigating the Sustainable IT Revolution – The critical role of independent verification. The report helps buyers worldwide accurately verify social and environmental aspects of their purchases.

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As a purchaser, you don’t need to know everything yourself to be strategic and successful in sustainable procurement. TCO Certified and other robust ecolabels do all the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to stay ahead, especially when legislation is lagging. But as we explain in this report, while some ecolabels include a robust system of verification, follow-up and accountability, others base product compliance on self declarations and unverified product claims. There are common pitfalls with ecolabels that risk putting you in the greenwash or bluewash trap.

These three questions will help you evaluate ecolabels, to decide which one you want to rely on in procurement.

1. Does it include up-to-date environmental and social sustainability criteria?

  • Multi-attribute criteria, covering environmental, social and governance aspects (ESG)
  • Criteria rigorous enough to make a measurable impact beyond legal requirements
  • Science-based criteria, with clear testing thresholds and without loopholes
  • Circularity criteria, demanding products are durable, repairable and upgradeable
  • Supply chain responsibility criteria that include all ILO Core Conventions and require independent factory audits
  • The same criteria apply globally
  • All criteria are mandatory

If the answer is yes, you have chosen an ecolabel with effective, up-to-date, verifiable criteria that are relevant across all sustainability dimensions, tough enough to make a difference, without loopholes.

If the answer is no, keep searching. Don’t choose an ecolabel with outdated, irrelevant or optional criteria that opens up for own interpretations, or loopholes. Criteria that are difficult to measure and verify lead to low sustainability benefits, and unfair competition in procurement.