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Online Database to Compare Ecolabels

A new online database created by World Resources Institute (WRI) and Big Room Inc. will allow companies and consumers to compare claims between different environmental certifications for food and consumer products, according to a press release.

The 2010 Global Ecolabel Monitor’s aim is to make it easier for companies and consumers to reduce their environmental impact by allowing them to more easily compare different environmental standards.

According to the site, WRI and Big Room Inc. invited more than 340 ecolabels in 42 countries to complete a survey of 66 questions ranging from certification criteria to funding sources. More than 113 ecolabel programs participated in the survey while more than half, including some prominent labels, could not be reached or elected not to participate when asked about certification requirements.

Credibility is a concern for companies and products entering the green marketplace. A lack of transparency about an ecolabel can cause consumer confusion or even backlash.

According to WRI, 92 percent of the programs surveyed require some verification before they award the ecolabel, compared to those requiring registration but no certification up front. Of those requiring certification, 66 percent require third-party certification in order to avoid perceived or real conflicts of interest.

According to the press release, programs run by non-profits generally have more rigorous requirements, such as site visits, audits and third party certifications. Organizations, such as the ISEAL Alliance, have implemented codes of good practice for standard setting, measuring environmental or social impacts and performance as well as compliance verification.

Less than a third of the ecolabels surveyed regularly monitor environmental and social impacts of their certification, while more than 21 percent of ecolabels have developed plans to study impacts for the first time. This trend is expected to grow as companies become more concerned about the credibility of the certifications they seek.

Big Room also launched a similar site, ecolabelling.org, two years ago. The FTC also launched a program to compare companies green claims.

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