Environmental Choice growing in strength

Enviro Choice Logo 252x189There is growing support both locally and internationally to purchase products which are better for the environment, but choosing the best of such products can be difficult, due to the sometimes ambiguous claims made by a manufacturer. In New Zealand, Environmental Choice gives the clear assurance that consumers are looking for.

Administered by The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust, Environmental Choice operates to internationally recognised standards and principles. Initiated and endorsed by the government in 1992, but independent of it, the program recognises the increasing desire of manufacturers to reduce the environmental impacts of their products. The ECNZ eco-label is intended to offer strong proof of environmental performance, and provides a credible and independent guide for consumers.

Manufacturers, distributors, retailers and service providers may apply for a licence to use the Environmental Choice Label on products and marketing. In a rigorous assessment, an independent third party verifies all information, and licence holders are monitored to ensure they continue to comply with the required standards.

Some key objectives of the ECNZ program are:

• Improve the quality of the environment by encouraging more sustainable processes through the design, production, marketing, and use of products which have a reduced environment impact during their entire life cycle;
• Offer a credible national and/or regional (e.g. Australasian) programme for environmental labelling;
• Work towards compliance with recognised international programs and principles;
• Foster and develop international relationships with relevant recognised international networks and other ecolabelling programmes/initiatives;
• Establish mutual recognition agreements with other similar programs;
• Work towards the harmonisation of national and/or international product specifications;
• Provide a clear, credible and independent guide to help eco-friendly consumers and businesses identify products and services that are less harmful to the environment.

Environmental labels are designed to inform consumers of the relative environmental impacts of the products they purchase. Environmental labelling makes a positive statement by identifying a product as less harmful to the environment than another similar, yet unlabelled product.

The scheme is certainly proving popular. ECNZ statistics say in the last six years, the number of licences has grown an average 43 per cent per year. It says as specifications for the products and services have diversified, the choice of licensed products has grown by over 1,000 per cent in less than a year.

Several key leaders in sustainable companies have reported that Environmental Choice has added both verification and value to their company. Tony de Felice, Health, Safety & Environment manager at Croxley Stationery, says his company has been involved in Environmental Choice Labelling within its manufacturing area since 2006. “At Croxley, we use the Environmental Choice label on our Warwick brand stationery products, many of our envelope products, and most recently, Codafile folders. A total of 172 products are covered by our EC-26-07 Office Paper and Stationery Licence, and we continue to look to add to that number, through the sourcing of sustainable raw materials and best practice in environmental management. This includes many areas such as: using environmentally friendly inks, managing waste and energy, making sure our products can be recycled, and ensuring our suppliers are doing the same.

“We believe that having the Environmental Choice label on products used in schools, homes, offices, and businesses throughout New Zealand confirms Croxley Stationery’s commitment to the environment, through a robust, independent, third party accreditation. When purchasing any of these products, you can be assured of the highest available environmental credentials. Our ECNZ products are proudly made in New Zealand, to certified New Zealand standards,” Mr de Felice said.

Nick Sangwine is product manager at Dexion Commercial, which specializes in shelving and storage systems. ‘In today’s world, where more and more projects are being designed to meet environmental standards, having products that hold an Environmental Choice licence allow us to tender for these projects, knowing that they will provide maximum points towards ‘green’ ratings. This is vital for us to maintain a point of difference over our competitors as the ECNZ ‘tick’ is immediate recognition of compliance to a strict, independent, assessment of predetermined criteria. “As a business, it makes us think about our products from a sustainable point of view, through all stages of their life cycle; from initial design and planning, manufacturing, procurement, packaging, delivery, through to responsible end-of-life management. “From our customer’s point of view, purchasing products that hold an Environmental Choice licence provides peace of mind that their investment has been through a stringent, environmentally friendly assessment, which also includes minimum requirements for suitability testing, product warranties, and end of life disposal,” Mr Sangwine said.

Pauline Harris is research and development coordinator at Matta Products, which lays safe surfaces in playgrounds. “ECNZ accreditation gives our customers a way of verifying our claims about recycled content and environmental safety,” she said. “This is important for those organisations that are moving towards sustainable procurement, and for those who want to earn ‘Green Build’ accreditation for their projects – our products are able to contribute ‘points’ in Green Build schemes. Because ECNZ is independent and requires set standards to be met, we can counter ‘green wash’ claims. “We also have an authoritative answer to negative publicity about the safety of plastics. ECNZ’s membership of the Global Environmental Network (GEN) is helpful in giving our export customers confidence, especially when an ecolabel they are familiar with has a mutual recognition agreement with ECNZ,” said Mrs Harris.

Gary Dormer, marketing/ export manager at shelving company Hydestor, says the company’s diverse client base is becoming increasingly aware of issues relating to the environment, in particular office fitouts and new builds where the rating of the building is an important facet. “Having the environmental certification for Hydestor products increases the number of points available and, as such contributes to our overall rating, assisting developers and tenants alike,” said Mr Dormer.



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