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The Nordic Ecolabel – The Swan

  • Published on June 30, 2016
The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is the official ecolabel of the Nordic countries. It was established in 1989 by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The purpose of this Ecolabel is to contribute to sustainable consumption and production, and the vision is “With the Nordic Ecolabel as a driving force make the Nordic countries a role model for a sustainable lifestyle”. The Nordic Ecolabel is a voluntary, third party certified labeling scheme that evaluates a product's or service's impact on the environment throughout the whole product's life-cycle. The label guarantees among other things that climate requirements are taken into account, and that CO2 emissions are minimized. By buying Nordic Swan Ecolabeled products and services consumers can contribute to a more sustainable environment. The label has been extremely successful and is very well known, with over 20 000 products labeled in total in the Nordic countries so far. 91 % of Nordic region consumers recognize the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
The Nordic Swan Ecolabel's mission is to promote sustainable consumption. By choosing products and services that are Nordic Swan Ecolabeled, consumers can actively contribute to the goal - achieving a more sustainable society and more sustainable lifestyles. Through the label, manufacturers are encouraged to develop environmentally sound products and services, and to achieve the goal of sustainable production. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel has a life-cycle perspective. Important environmental issues that are considered in the development of the label include: • Energy usage • Climate aspects • Water usage • Source of raw materials • Use of chemicals • Hazardous effluents • Packaging • Waste Marketing and communication initiatives Marketing and communication is one of the core focus areas for the Nordic Ecolabel activities. Each Nordic country conducts a host of different activities to stimulate companies to apply for a Nordic Swan Ecolabel license, and to encourage the public to choose labeled products. These activities include local homepages as well as a Nordic Ecolabeling homepage (, advertising, campaigns, seminars, webinars, podcasts, events, newsletters and an active presence in social media. Lately the focus has been on using social media. In Sweden, especially Twitter and Linkedin are used, also because these channels have a good potential to reach politicians in addition to consumers. Denmark, Norway and Finland are strong in using especially Facebook. Facebook is especially efficient in reaching women between 40–60 years old that make active decisions on procuring ecolabeled products. An example of a recent communication campaign (2015 and 2016) in Sweden, which was well received has been the “Save the world a little bit every day” campaign. The campaign message was that small daily choices and deeds matter. The campaign communication included outdoor ads in the subway, buses and trains (by means of ClearChannel and JC Decaux and GetOnBoard) and social media. The campaign included promotion of Nordic Swan Ecolabeled products as well as the Swan concept itself. Sustainable procurement network Driving up demand for labeled goods and services is vital to achieve a sustainable society. This is the purpose behind the Sustainable Procurement Network. Every company that wants to contribute to a sustainable society through their procurement is welcome to join the net-work. One aim is for labeled goods and services to be prioritized and to become a natural part of all procurement processes. Joint activities that provide inspiration and tips on how companies can make their operations more sustainable currently include seminars, breakfast meetings, webinars, podcasting, networking parties, and much more. The ecolabel organization also passes on good advice and good practices of companies to others. Licensing The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is available in over 60 product areas, which cover both goods and services. A company can apply for a Nordic Swan Ecolabel within any of these product areas. When granted a license, the company may then use the Nordic Swan Ecolabel on all its marketing for all its products or services that are labeled. The national offices in five Nordic countries manage license applications and grant licenses. The license applies for as long as the criteria for the product are valid. The criteria are revised and new product areas added on an ongoing basis. All the criteria documents along with instructions on how to apply are presented at Regular follow-up inspections are conducted in order to ensure that companies with a Nordic Swan Ecolabel license meet the requirements. Development of licensing criteria is done through an extensive process, which includes pre-studies, research, public referrals and country approval by local Nordic Ecolabelling Boards. These boards are responsible for each country's stance on issues concerning criteria and new product groups. It is then up to the joint Nordic Ecolabelling Board to decide, which product groups and criteria will apply across the Nordic region. In addition to setting requirements for environment, climate, health and performance, the Nordic Swan Ecolabel criteria also include social requirements concerning acceptable ethical conduct regarding child labor, forced labor, health and safety, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, discrimination, discipline, working hours and pay. All the criteria require, at minimum, compliance with national laws and regulations. Novelty The Nordic Swan Ecolabel has initially been fairly unique in that it addresses the entire lifecycle of the service or product and covers not only environmental factors but also social aspects. Today there are also other labels that have this approach. It is not a purely sectoral label, but can apply to many types of products or services. Sustainability Impacts At the end of 2014 there were 1869 issued licenses. There are over 20 000 labeled products in the Nordic countries. World-leading companies have Nordic Ecolabelled products, for example Procter & Gamble, Samsung, Sharp, Fujitsu, Scandic Hotels, and SCA. The success of all communication and campaign actions throughout the years is indicated by the high recognition figures that the Nordic Swan Ecolabel enjoys year after year. In the latest market survey (January 2015), 91 % of Nordic region consumers recognized the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. In Sweden the number was even higher at 96 %. Consumers associate the Nordic Swan Ecolabel logo with trust, see it as an official label and say they like the work that is being done. Consumers understand that the label represents a good choice for the environment. The label has raised the awareness of the importance of consumer choices and is an efficient way of highlighting products that can be trusted to produce limited environmental and other negative impacts. Of the recent communication campaigns, the 2015 “Save the world a little bit every day” campaign generated 750 million contacts and received a very strong positive response from consumers. 80 % of young people between the ages 16 to 29 liked the campaign. The sales of Nordic Swan Ecolabeled products included in the campaign developed very well. For instance, a brand of Nordic Swan Ecolabeled shampoo that was featured in the campaign had a sales increase of 750 % during the two-week period the campaign ran. Challenges and potential for further development Social media campaigns are more effective today than road shows or personal contacts. Social media and media exposure in general is more efficient in reaching large numbers of consumers. Important for the success of the label has been the cooperation throughout the value chain, which includes also retail stores that choose which products to include in their stores selection. Coordinated Nordic campaigns could be a good way forward to spread the same message efficiently in several countries also in the future. Success Indicators Critical for the success of the concept is honesty, trustworthiness (credibility), result-orientation and transparency. The Swan label has been able to maintain a consistently good reputation and trustworthiness. To be trustworthy means non-corruptibility, good controls at licensing and follow-up after licensing.

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