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Presentation Options for Sustainability Labelling in Germany: Conceptional Considerations and Practical Implications

Conference: ERSCP-EMSU conference
25.10.10 - 29.10.10, Delft

Several product labels provide information to the consumer on different product characteris­tics. Nowadays, a huge variety of labels give information on ecological and/or social aspects of products. Unfortunately, only some aspects of the product’s sustainability are represented by those labels. Most of them are mere “Eco-labels”, discounting social aspects, aspects of quality, or of life cycle costing. A “Sustainability-label”, addressing all aspects of sustainability, does not yet exist.

The potential of a sustainability label was the subject of a study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of nutrition, agriculture and consumer protection. Four different conceptual approaches have been identified in the framework of this study that would be applicable to a broad(er) set of product groups.

The presentation summarises the findings of this study. First, a review of the most important background information on labelling is given, resulting from the analysis of scientific conceptual approaches to sustainable labelling and a broad survey of existent national and international product labelling schemes. Furthermore, the need for an overarching sustainability label is exemplified on the basis of three case studies. The three selected domains for these case studies were food, toys and financial investments. Then, the requirements a sustainability label has to fulfil and the identified conceptual approaches of a sustainability label are described. The weaknesses and strengths of all approaches are discussed before general recommendations are made.