I was asked at a recent presentation: “Is there a product eco rating?”

The answer is generally “Yes,” and there are several alternatives.

Particularly suited to products aimed at consumer markets are the kind of labelling schemes listed at Eco Label Index. You will be familiar with some of the names, like the Fairtrade scheme. You will have to do your research to find out the suitability of these schemes to your product niche, what your competitors do and what the costs, constraints and benefits are.

A more recent initiative comes from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly Certifications. There is a range of different schemes which might suit your product. Given Amazon’s leverage in the consumer market, this is worth considering carefully and watching how it develops.

A feature of many B2C schemes is that perception and promotion are huge considerations. Some ratings or certifications may deliver a perceived eco performance superior to that which some might judge it deserves. As an example compare the difference in price and perception between “Free Range eggs” and “Barn eggs” and the lifestyle reality for the chickens. Consumers might imagine free range means small groups of happy chickens pecking away in a quaint old farmyard. Not really:  Eggs Explained.

If you are selling into the business environment, the more sophisticated customers are likely to have scoring systems of their own to evaluate and compare your products or services with respect to Cost, Environmental, Technical, Logistics or other factors. The precise detail and weightings of such scoring systems can vary from one customer to another. Engage the buyers and find out what they value, and how you can achieve a competitive score.

Standards from BSI can help, particularly in B2B, the standards applied to services and products or the methods of their production. More information is available at BSI Sustainability. One that might suit is the BSI PAS2050 which guides you in how you might calculate life cycle emissions of a product. Easier said than done.

One thing worth bearing in mind when evaluating and promoting your product is that the eco impact or apparent rating of a product can depend on scope, context or wider consequences.  For example: production of a cotton shirt is far more damaging in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than a polyester shirt, but polyester waste causes more harm than cotton if not recycled. A polycotton mix might mitigate some emissions but be an even bigger challenge to recycle than single materials. Then throw in the different characteristics of rates of wear or energy for washing and drying, it all gets a little more complicated.

For those who want to get into the technical weeds on this visit Eco Costs Value from Delft University and look at the databases they have. For those for whom this is a bit much, then get in touch with us at Intsilo and we will see if we can help.

Product Eco Ratings
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