Choos­ing wisely

The government-owned eco la­bel En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice is among the most rig­or­ous on the planet.

Element - - BUSINESS - By Steve Hart

En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice is an eco la­belling stan­dard launched by the government in 1992 and man­aged by the NZ Eco­la­belling Trust.

The aim of the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, which took over man­age­ment of the scheme in 2003, is to act as an in­de­pen­dent as­ses­sor of New Zealand prod­ucts and ser­vices against pub­lished spec­i­fi­ca­tions – look­ing at their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and the sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices of man­u­fac­tur­ers.

So far, 2500 prod­ucts and ser­vices have been awarded the En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice planet and tick logo. Among the 67 com­pa­nies is Re­sene, which has fea­tured the sym­bol on its paint pots since 1996. Other big names in­clude Canon NZ, gym chain Les Mills and in­su­la­tion maker Pink Batts.

Michael Hooper, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s spokesper­son, says: “As­ses­sors are drawn from some of the ma­jor an­a­lyt­i­cal, en­gi­neer­ing and sci­en­tific con­sult­ing com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in New Zealand and in­ter­na­tion­ally. They may be chemists, physi­cists or what­ever is needed and they take into ac­count the whole life cy­cle of a prod­uct.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice’s gen­eral man­ager is Robin Tay­lor. He has a de­gree in eco­nom­ics, a back­ground in sales and mar­ket­ing, and says its as­sess­ments not only cover sus­tain­abil­ity, but checks that prod­ucts are safe to use and that they work as con­sumers ex­pect.

“What we sell is our rep­u­ta­tion and we are punc­til­ious in the way we do things,” he says. “At the end of the day we have a rep­u­ta­tion that has value. Re­spectabil­ity and cred­i­bil­ity are key.”

The la­bel is owned by the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment, but is run by the trust, which is a mem­ber of the Global Eco­la­belling Net­work. The net­work is chaired by Tay­lor, and means En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice op­er­ates to an in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised stan­dard for trans­parency.

A study for the UK government placed En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice among the top three cer­ti­fi­ca­tions of its type in the world.

And a sur­vey by Col­mar Brun­ton – to es­tab­lish the coun­try’s most trusted as­sur­ance of en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance – placed En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice just be­hind the En­ergy Star ap­pli­ance rat­ing and Fair­trade, which works with food pro­duc­ers in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

One of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent direc­tors, Su­san Pater­son, cur­rently chairs the board which has a depth of busi­ness and sci­en­tific acu­men and in­cludes a stake­hold­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

You may have seen the En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice logo at the su­per­mar­ket, on prod­ucts such as toi­let tis­sue, pa­per tow­els, home clean­ing and laun­dry prod­ucts. And you’ll prob­a­bly be hear­ing a lot more about the or­gan­i­sa­tion as it has ex­panded into the as­sess­ment of ser­vices such as com­mer­cial clean­ers, wool scour­ing and con­crete pour­ing. On the cards is an of­fice cat­e­gory that, says Tay­lor, will bring vis­i­bil­ity and rel­e­vance for the eco la­bel to com­pa­nies that em­ploy five or more peo­ple. “Most of our cri­te­ria are for prod­ucts,” he says. “But there are lots of of­fices, lawyers and ac­coun­tants etc, that might want to set them­selves apart by hav­ing the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion – to ad­ver­tise that they are work­ing in an en­vi­ron­men­tally-prefer­able way.”

Of­fices ap­ply­ing to be cer­ti­fied will be checked for en­ergy con­sump­tion, ma­te­ri­als used in fit-out, con­sum­ables, waste gen­er­ated, air and water qual­ity, clean­ing chem­i­cal us­age, and emis­sions gen­er­ated by com­pany ve­hi­cles.

“We will also look at exit in­ter­views for staff and staff turn-over,” says Tay­lor. “It is well es­tab­lished – by stud­ies out of the US – that com­pa­nies that have a ‘green’ be­hav­iour tend to have hap­pier staff and hold on to their peo­ple longer.” Tay­lor also says ten­der doc­u­ments for large con­tracts fre­quently ask com­pa­nies to il­lus­trate their en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices, and so those with an En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice seal may have a com­mer­cial ad­van­tage over those that do not. “As­sess­ments for the seal should be af­ford­able, as they will be based on ac­tual cost, and the an­nual li­cens­ing fee for us­ing the eco­la­bel is be­ing scaled to en­cour­age small of­fices to aim for the stan­dard,” he says.

A study for the UK government placed En­vi­ron­men­tal Choice among the top three cer­ti­fi­ca­tions of its type

in the world.

en­vi­ron­men­tal­choice.org.nz

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