Legal and Regulatory Framework > United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Legal and regulatory frameworks in eco-labelling

UNEP is conducting a number of activities addressing legal and regulatory frameworks, particularly in the eco-label sector. The ‘Enabling developing countries to seize eco-labelling opportunities’ project initiated by UNEP in 2007 aims to promote the production of goods and services that are compliant with internationally recognized voluntary standards and eco-labels. Eco-labels have become increasingly popular in European and other western countries; however, due to the lack of information, expertise, technology, and resources, emerging countries have often not been able to seize the opportunities that eco-labels can provide. Instead, these countries often perceive them as trade barriers when trying to export non-certified products into developed countries where these measurements are required.

The project provides capacity building and technical assistance for industries to meet the requirements of the life cycle based eco-labels (ISO type I) used in export markets and for governments to create enabling policy framework in synergies with other policy approaches such as public procurement. In selected countries, a specific sector was targeted: the TV sector in China, the textile sectors in India and South Africa, the footwear sectors in Mexico and Kenya and the paper sector in Brazil. At the normative level, the project is working with the Global Ecolabelling Network, an association of eco-labelling programmes from around the world, to promote greater cooperation and mutual recognition of eco-labels.

The project has already been successful in positioning eco-labelling as a market opportunity to emerging economies rather than a “green barrier”. Twelve companies from six countries have applied or are in the process of doing so for the certification with the EU ecolabel. National governments have strong interest in promoting sustainable consumption and production (SCP) including eco-labelling as a conceptual framework. Governments of Brazil, Mexico, China and South Africa introduced and reinforced the provision of credible and verifiable product environmental and social information as a strategic element of the policy framework on SCP.