The EU’s reference system for environmental performance certification : the European Ecolabel

Updated 02/14/2018

In 2017, the European Ecolabel celebrated its 25th anniversary. The United Nations has also proclaimed this year as the International Year of Sustainable tourism for Development, highlighting issues faced by the tourist accommodation sector.

The European Ecolabel was introduced 26 years ago, in 1992. Its role was to "give a boost to products on sale by allowing consumers to easily identify those that are most respectful of the environment throughout their life cycle," explains Aude Andrup, organiser of the European Ecolabel sector at ADEME. Today, around 39,000 European product references have obtained the certification for all thirty of the existing categories. In France, 514 companies hold the label (which represents 2/3 of all certified companies in the EU), offering 4,366 product references, putting the country first in terms of certified products.

A tool that benefits everyone

By respecting the requirements of the European Ecolabel frame guidelines, companies are sure to act upon the various stages of the cycle of life, that have more impacts on the environment. Manufacturers have much to gain: the opening of their market to the rest of Europe, a better visibility, the structuring of the process, an improved competitivity… When it comes to consumers, the labeled products are available in all major supermarkets and are not necessarily more expensive than others. The label also enjoys a growing renown: over two thirds of French consumers have said they recognize the logo. Although growing public awareness of environmental issues has pushed institutions and businesses to improve their practices, making for a promising future for the European Ecolabel, "we still need to pursue the efforts we’ve made so far to improve its use and reputation amongst the various audiences," states Aude Andrup. This is one of ADEME’s missions on this anniversary year.

Tourism, a promising sector

Tourism is one of the main global economic sectors. Within the European Union, it represents the 3rd line of business, behind construction and distribution. Created in 2003, the European Ecolabel for Tourist Accommodation and Campsite services has been adopted by an increasing number of establishments: in late 2016, they numbered 668 in Europe, 342 of which were in France. By acquiring that label, they are underlining their commitment to reducing the levels of water and energy consumption, reducing the level of waste production, using sources of renewable energy and less noxious substances, and educating their clients in terms of environmental issues. "Today, nearly 90% of establishments concerned are happy with the European Ecolabel," says Aude Andrup. Indeed, tourist establishments that have been allocated the label have drawn real benefits from it. They consider that this process allows them to reduce operational costs, sparks interest and receptivity on the part of their clientele, and contributes to overall client satisfaction. With such results, the ADEME team will pursue their efforts to promote the European Ecolabel throughout the country. In order to achieve this, ADEME has developed the Ecolabel Tool Box, an online app aimed at the tourism industry to spread the word about the European Ecolabel amongst the largest number of establishments, to improve the label’s reputation and to make future updates easier to implement. The interest shown by European establishments and organizations has sparked the need to implement it on an international scale.