A comparative study of government-controlled, mixed and private eco-labelling programmes in Europe, the United States of America, Canada and Germany
Eco-labelling schemes can be classified according to the ownership of the programme. This thesis compares government-controlled, private and half government-controlled, half privatised eco-labelling schemes from Europe, America, Germany and Canada. The criteria for the comparison are divided in three sections. The first section is based on the awarding process, focusing on the determination of product categories, the setting of standards and the awarding of the label. The second section focuses on environmental policy and regulation, examining impact on trade, transparency of the programme, accountability and credibility and whether the programme is a stand-alone instrument. Section three contains the context and background of the study, discussing the programme's effectiveness in providing information, knowledge about the label and the effect of the label on manufacturers. These criteria are applied to each of the four eco-labelling programmes. Three areas were found to be most problematic during this comparison. The first one was found concerning the possible incompatibility of eco-labelling programmes with GATT law and therefore their negative impact on international trade. The second one was found regarding the accountability of the programmes, showing the difficulty in holding the eco-labelling authority accountable. The third problem was the amounts of funding necessary to advertise the programmes so that consumers will become fully aware of them - funding that is not available. After the actual comparison, the results were then drawn together in a final analysis. During this analysis, a look was also taken at eco-labelling in general. Several intrinsic problems were determined, such as the still unreliable scientific method of life-cycle analysis (LCA), the "lock in" to inferior technologies and the unwillingness of consumers to pay higher prices for environmentally friendly products. Since the result of the comparison is that eco-labelling contains too many intrisinc problems to be able to ever function as it should be, a look was taken at possible alternatives, such as international harmonisation of standards, the ISO 14000 series, the Eco-Profile, mutual recognition under the Global Eco-labelling Network and mandatory product standards.