Navigating the eco-labels landscape and avoiding greenwashing
From raw materials to disposal, every product we buy affects the environment. When purchasing a new item is necessary, eco-labels help consumers make informed choices to reduce impacts. Trustworthy certifications indicate products that are ethically sourced, energy efficient, non-toxic, reusable, recyclable, and eco-friendly across their full life cycle. This guide lists and explains key environmental labels to simplify your buying decisions. Knowing what the credible logos are and what they mean allows you to easily identify sustainable products to preserve resources and build a greener future. Rely on these clear indicators to avoid greenwashing and truly make a difference through your purchasing power.
B Corp certification verifies a company's entire social and environmental performance. To be certified, companies must achieve high scores on the B Impact Assessment, make legal commitments to stakeholders beyond shareholders, and exhibit transparency. B Corps undergo recertification every 3 years to ensure continuous improvement. This label indicates that a business is deemed of high social and environmental performance by the certification body. Unless other labels, this certification does not apply to specific products.
Launched in 1992, the EU Ecolabel certifies products meet high environmental standards across their lifecycle - from materials to disposal. The logo guarantees products are durable, repairable, recyclable, and minimize chemicals, emissions, energy, and waste. Over 88,000 products have earned the "EU flower" logo by meeting criteria that promote circular economy principles.
The FairTrade label certifies products that meet FairTrade standards for fair prices and wages for farmers and workers in developing countries. It ensures farmers receive a fair minimum price and an additional FairTrade premium to invest in their communities. FairTrade labeling builds consumer trust that products are ethically and sustainably sourced. The label promotes fair terms of trade and empowers small-scale farmers and workers.
FSC certifies forests managed to strict environmental, social, and economic sustainability standards. The principles require protecting ecosystems, biodiversity, workers, and communities. FSC chain-of-custody tracks certified wood through processing and distribution. FSC labels on products indicate responsible sourcing from well-managed forests. Audits and investigations uphold credibility. Over 200 million hectares certified globally follow mandatory principles for ethical forestry.
Global Organic Textile Standard
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifies textiles as organic from raw materials through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. It requires organic fibers, safe chemicals, water treatment, and fair labor practices. GOTS prohibits GMOs and animal testing and has strict ecological requirements. Certification involves inspections of each company in the supply chain.
Leaping Bunny certifies cosmetics and household products are not tested on animals at any stage of development, production, or marketing. Companies cannot conduct, commission, or allow third parties to perform animal testing after a fixed cut-off date. Suppliers are monitored to ensure no animal testing in supply chains. Companies must renew annually and undergo audits to verify compliance. The Leaping Bunny logo builds consumer trust that no new animal testing occurs from raw materials through final products sold. Over 2000 cruelty-free brands meet the rigorous certification standard.
Marine Stewardship Council
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue fish label indicates seafood from a certified sustainable fishery that meets standards for protecting fish stocks, minimizing environmental impacts, and effective management. The Chain of Custody Standard traces MSC-certified catch through processing, distribution, and sale. Independent audits ensure separability and prevent substitution. MSC certification helps end overfishing by rewarding sustainable fishing and empowering consumer choice at the market. Over 1500 MSC labeled products are available in the UK.
The OPRL recyclability labels are not certifications per se. They are indications helping consumers properly dispose of their waste packaging. These labels are determined by assessing consumer access to collection, recycling infrastructure capabilities, and end markets. The labels are binary: 'Recycle' or 'Do Not Recycle'.
'Recycle' means over 75% of UK authorities collect the packaging for effective sorting, processing, and sale as recyclate for use in new packaging or products.
'Do Not Recycle' means under 50% of authorities collect the packaging or it is not effectively recycled.
The Rainforest Alliance seal certifies farms and forests meet sustainability standards for nature and people. Independent audits evaluate environmental protection, climate-smart practices, human rights, and community livelihoods. Certification requires continuous improvement training and clear benefits for farmers and workers. The frog seal signifies production methods that balance ecology, equality, and economics.
Soil Association Organic
The Soil Association organic standards certify products meet both the EU organic regulations and additional higher standards set by the Soil Association. They ensure organic practices for animal welfare, environmental protection, and quality. Soil Association standards prohibit routine antibiotic use in livestock and have strict requirements on ingredients, processing, and labeling. Certification requires annual inspections of every organization in the supply chain.
The Vegan Society
The Vegan Trademark certifies products as vegan. It was created in 1990 by The Vegan Society to help consumers easily identify vegan products. The trademark appears on over 65,000 vegan products globally, including cosmetics, clothing, food, drink, household items, and many more. This label certifies no animal ingredients or testing were used in production. The Vegan Trademark builds trust in vegan claims and makes veganism more accessible.
The Vegetarian Society
The Vegetarian Society's vegetarian and vegan trademarks certify products as vegetarian or vegan respectively. They prohibit animal-derived ingredients, require free-range eggs for vegetarian, and ensure measures to prevent cross-contamination. Genetic modification is banned. Animal testing of products or ingredients is prohibited. These trademarks can be found on food items, but also on drinks, cosmetics, household and cleaning products, and more.