How harmful are the products we buy for the environment? In the light of climate movements demanding political changes, a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) now demands the introduction of a European Eco Score as a transparent indication of sustainable products.
Written by Sophia Stille // 25.09.2021
More and more people are trying to buy sustainable products in order to support the fight against climate change. However, it is often unclear which products are truly sustainable and different ways of labelling can make it confusing for consumers. Is it better to buy a product carrying the “ecological” label or should one opt for a product labelled as “vegan”? What do these labels actually mean in terms of sustainability and harmfulness for the environment? The European Eco Score Initiative demands the introduction of a transparent and uniform indicator which highlights whether products are environmentally friendly or not.
The ECI mechanism was created to make it possible for citizens to get involved in EU policy-making. For an initiative to be successful, the organisers need to collect 1 million signatures from citizens of at least 7 different EU countries. If this is the case, the European Commission needs to consider the claims and present an answer.
Are sustainable products truly sustainable?
The idea evolved when a group of students and young people from all over Belgium protested on the streets for changes in climate policy. They realised that they often encounter difficulties knowing whether a product is truly sustainable – especially because companies often try to greenwash their products. Greenwashing is a marketing strategy used by companies in order to appear climate-friendly or sustainable, even though their products might not actually be. It has become more and more frequent during the last years since companies have realised that more people care about the environment and demand environmentally-friendly products. This initiative wants to counteract this practice and make it possible for consumers to know right away if and how the product they buy affects the environment. They demand the introduction of a European Eco Score.
The Eco Score would indicate the environmental impact of a product on a scale from A (green), meaning environmentally-friendly, to F (red), meaning environmentally-harmful.
By this, the organisers want to achieve a uniform way of labelling products throughout the EU to enable consumers to make informed decisions about what to buy. The aspect of uniformity is especially important, in order to avoid confusion about labels which could discourage consumers from informing themselves.
Nutri-Score or Eco-Score as an indicator for sustainability of products?
In some countries, a certain score-system of labelling products is already active, such as the Nutri-Score indicator which was introduced by the French government in 2017. Instead of indicating the environmental footprint of a product, the Nutri-Score indicates the nutritional value and is thus aimed at enabling consumers to buy healthy products.
In January 2021, France introduced an Eco-score developed by the consultancy ECO2-Initiative, which corresponds closely to the ideas of the ECI. On a scale from A (green) to E (red), products are being labelled in order to enable consumers to buy sustainable products. Through a mathematical equation, the eco-score is calculated, taking into account a products’ life cycle, location of production, distribution of energy throughout its use, reusability and final deposition. What is notable is that also the origin of each ingredient is being taken into account. According to ECO2-Initiative, their way of calculating is more precise than the ones previously used, for example the Life Cycle Assessment used by the European Commission, as it takes into account a wider range of factors.
As the ECI organisers mention, one of the most important aspects would be to establish a uniform system across all EU Member States to make it transparent and easy for consumers to engage with. Right now, it is up to the individual Member States to use or introduce an EcoScore-system. This can disrupt market flows and is inconvenient for consumers. The introduction of a EU-wide system, would thus be in the interest of the wider public and should therefore take up a larger space on the agenda of the EU policy-makers.
How to help?
In order to reach the required number of 1 Million signatures, the ECI organisers count on you! On their website, you can get more information about their idea and join the movement. Sign the initiative and share it on your social media to help make sustainable consumption possible! The organizers even made a song about their initiative to make it more engaging.
Of course Our Only Home will keep you updated about this and other initiatives on our website, so don’t forget to check in from time to time.