The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary scheme that aims to reduce the overall environmental impact of organisations to boost sustainable consumption in the marketplace and facilitate a transition towards a more circular economy. The main issues connected with the management of this scheme have been rarely investigated in literature. This study aims to analyse the main managerial and technical challenges linked with the EU Ecolabel such as drivers, barriers and benefits, uptake, monitoring, product portfolios and other criteria.
We addressed this literature gap by administering multi-stakeholder surveys including consumers, Licence Holder’s and Non-Licence Holder’s companies, policy-makers and other main relevant organisations obtaining 442 responses.
Results and discussion
The analysis indicated the market drivers and benefits for Licence Holders, but recognised that increasing the marketing promotion of the scheme and boosting its synergies with other EU policies would attract Non-Licence Holders, which also claimed the narrowness of the EU Ecolabel portfolio as the main barrier for its adoption. Our results also confirmed the lack of demand for products bearing the EU Ecolabel, although stakeholders recognised a higher demand for environmentally friendly products. Our results pointed out the lack of a marketing/communication policy coordinated at the European level and the lack of an adequate monitoring system of the performance. Health/well-being products were recommended as main future EU Ecolabel products, while services and business to business products were not advised.
Our findings provided new insights on the issues connected with the management of an ecolabelling scheme that can be useful for academics, practitioners and policy-makers. We also provided recommendations for policy makers to develop a heterogeneous (but not too broad) portfolio, with a focus on consumable goods with a health/well-being connotation, to strongly increase the promotion of the EU Ecolabel at all levels and to accelerate harmonisation with other EU policies, especially Green Public Procurement. Future research may investigate the EU Ecolabel awareness by investigating consumers’ perception in the EU context or may focus on regulatory reliefs that help to boost the adoption of the EU Ecolabel.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baldo G, Marino M, Montani M, Ryding SO (2009) The carbon footprint measurement toolkit for the EU Ecolabel. Int J Life Cycle Ass 14:591–596. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-009-0115-3
Brécard D (2014) Consumer confusion over the profusion of eco-labels: lessons from a double differentiation model. Resour Energy Econ 37:64–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.reseneeco.2013.10.002
Cerri J, Testa F, Rizzi F (2018) The more I care, the less I will listen to you: how information, environmental concern and ethical production influence consumers’ attitudes and the purchasing of sustainable products. J Clean Prod 175:343–353. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.12.054
Cordella M, Alfieri F, Sanfelix J, Donatello S, Kaps R, Wolf O (2020) Improving material efficiency in the life cycle of products: a review of EU Ecolabel criteria. Int J Life Cycle Assesst 25:921–935. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01608-8
D’Souza C (2004) Ecolabel programmes: a stakeholder (consumer) perspective. Corp Comm Int J 9(3):179–188. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563280410551105
D’Souza C, Taghian M, Brouwer AR (2019) Ecolabels information and consumer self-confidence in decision making: a strategic imperative. J Strageg Mark. https://doi.org/10.1080/0965254X.2019.1636845
Daddi T, Testa F, Iraldo F, Frey M (2014) Removing and simplifying administrative costs and burdens for EMAS and ISO 14001 certified organizations: evidences from Italy. Environ Eng Manag J 13(3):689–698. https://doi.org/10.30638/EEMJ.2014.073
Darnall N, Aragón-Correa JA (2014) Can ecolabels influence firms’ sustainability strategy and stakeholder behavior? Organ Environ 27(4):319–327. https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026614562963
Del Borghi A, Moreschi L, Gallo M (2020) Communication through ecolabels: how discrepancies between the EU PEF and EPD schemes could affect outcome consistency. Int J Life Cycle Ass 25:905–920. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01609-7
Delmas MA, Burbano VC (2011) The drivers of greenwashing. Calif Manag Rev 54(1):64–87. https://doi.org/10.1525/cmr.2011.54.1.64
Donatello S, Cordella M, Kaps R, Kowalska M, Wolf O (2020) Are the existing EU Ecolabel criteria for furniture products too complex? An analysis of complexity from a material and a supply chain perspective and suggestions for ways ahead. Int J Life Cycle Ass 25(5):868–882. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01601-1
EC, European Commission, (2010) Regulation (EC) No. 66/2010 of the European Parliament, the council. On the EU Ecolabel. Off. J. Eur, Union
EC, European Commission, (2017). Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the review of implementation of Regulation (EC)No 122/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on 25 November 2009 on the voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) and the Regulation (EC) No 66/2010 of the parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 on the EU Ecolabel. COM 355 final.
Frans Folkvord F, Veltri GA, Lupiáñez-Villanueva F, Tornese P, Codagnone C, Gaskell G (2020) The effects of ecolabels on environmentally- and health-friendly cars: an online survey and two experimental studies. Int J Life Cycle Ass 25:883–899. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01644-4
Gilg A, Barr S, Ford N (2005) Green consumption or sustainable lifestyles? Identifying the sustainable consumer. Futures 37(6):481–504. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2004.10.016
Hallstein E, Villas-Boas SB (2013) Can household consumers save the wild fish? Lessons from a sustainable seafood advisory. J Environ Econ Manag 66(1):52–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeem.2013.01.003
Harbaugh R, Maxwell JW, Roussillon B (2011) Label confusion: the Groucho effect of uncertain standards. Manag Sci 57(9):1512–1527. https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1412
International Organization for Standardization (ISO), (2018). ISO14024:2018, Environmental labels and declarations - Type I environmental labelling - Principles and procedures.
Iraldo F, Barberio M (2017) Drivers, barriers and benefits of the EU ecolabel in European companies’ perception. Sustainability 9(5):751. https://doi.org/10.3390/su9050751
Iraldo F, Griesshammer R, Kahlenborn W (2020) The future of ecolabels. Int J Life Cycle Ass 5:833–839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-020-01741-9
Karl H, Orwat C (1999) Environmental labelling in Europe: European and national tasks. European Environment 9(5):212–220. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0976(199909/10)9:5%3c212::AID-EET203%3e3.0.CO;2-I
Laufer WS (2003) Social Accountability and Corporate Greenwashing. J Bus Ethics 43(3):253–261. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022962719299
Lavallée S, Plouffe S (2004) The ecolabel and sustainable development. Int J Life Cycle Ass 9(6):349–354. https://doi.org/10.1065/lca2004.09.180.2
Lin SC, Nadlifatin R, Amna AR, Persada SF, Razif M (2017) Investigating citizen behavior intention on mandatory and voluntary pro-environmental programs through a pro-environmental planned behavior model. Sustainability 9(7):1289. https://doi.org/10.3390/su9071289
Loprieno M (1997) The European Union Eco-label scheme: An environmental policy marketing tool. Ind Env 20(1–2):35–38
Lozano J, Blanco E, Rey-Maquieira J (2010) Can ecolabels survive in the long run? The role of initial conditions. Ecol Econ 69(12):2525–2534. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.07.029
Marrucci L, Daddi T, Iraldo F (2019) The integration of circular economy with sustainable consumption and production tools: systematic review and future research agenda. J Clean Prod 240:118268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118268
Marrucci L, Marchi M, Daddi T (2020) Improving the carbon footprint of food and packaging waste management in a supermarket of the Italian retail sector. Waste Manag 105:594–603
Merli R, Preziosi M, Acampora A, Ali F (2019) Why should hotels go green? Insights from guests experience in green hotels. Int J Hosp Manag 81:169–179. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhm.2019.04.022
Minkov N, Lehmann A, Finkbeiner M (2020) The product environmental footprint communication at the crossroad: integration into or co-existence with the European Ecolabel? Int J Life Cycle Ass 25(3):508–522. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01715-6
Minkov N, Lehmann A, Winter L, Finkbeiner M (2020) Characterization of environmental labels beyond the criteria of ISO 14020 series. Int J Life Cycle Ass 25(5):840–855. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01596-9
Mufidah I, Jiang BC, Lin SC, Chin J, Rachmaniati YP, Persada SF (2018) Understanding the consumers’ behavior intention in using green ecolabel product through Pro-Environmental Planned Behavior model in developing and developed regions: lessons learned from Taiwan and Indonesia. Sustainability 10(5):1423. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051423
Nadai A (1999) Conditions for the development of a product ecolabel. Europ Env 9(5):202–211. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0976(199909/10)9:5%3c202::AID-EET200%3e3.0.CO;2-S
Nyilasy G, Gangadharbatla H, Paladino A (2014) Perceived greenwashing: the interactive effects of green advertising and corporate environmental performance on consumer reactions. J Bus Ethics 125(4):693–707. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1944-3
Ojala E, Uusitalo V, Virkki-Hatakka T, Niskanen A, Soukka R (2016) Assessing product environmental performance with PEF methodology: reliability, comparability, and cost concerns. Int J Life Cycle Ass 21(8):1092–1105. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1090-0
Preziosi M, Tourais P, Acampora A, Videira N, Merli R (2019) The role of environmental practices and communication on guest loyalty: examining EU-Ecolabel in Portuguese hotels. J Clean Prod 237:117659. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.117659
Prieto-Sandoval V, Mejía-Villa A, Ormazabal M, Jaca C (2020) Challenges for ecolabeling growth: lessons from the EU Ecolabel in Spain. Int J Life Cycle Ass 25(5):856–867. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-019-01611-z
Rahman I, Park J, Chi CGQ (2015) Consequences of “greenwashing”: consumers’ reactions to hotels’ green initiatives. Int J Contemp Hosp Manag 27(6):1054–1081. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-04-2014-0202
Rex E, Baumann H (2007) Beyond ecolabels: what green marketing can learn from conventional marketing. J Clean Prod 15(6):567–576. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2006.05.013
Rubik F, Scheer D, Iraldo F (2008) Eco-labelling and product development: potentials and experiences. Int J Prod Dev 6(3/4):393–419. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJPD.2008.020401
Salzman I (1997) Informing the green consumer: the debate over the use and abuse of environmental labels. J Ind Ecol 1(2):11–21. https://doi.org/10.1162/jiec.19188.8.131.52
Schumacher I (2010) Ecolabeling, consumers’ preferences and taxation. Ecol Econ 69(11):2202–2212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2010.06.005
Song L, Lim Y, Chang P, Guo Y, Zhang M, Wang X, Yu X, Lehto MR, Cai H (2019) Ecolabel’s role in informing sustainable consumption: a naturalistic decision-making study using eye tracking glasses. J Clean Prod 218:685–695. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.283
Testa F, Iraldo F, Frey M, Daddi T (2012) What factors influence the uptake of GPP (green public procurement) practices? New evidence from an Italian survey. Ecol Econ 82:88–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.07.011
Testa F, Iraldo F, Vaccari A, Ferrari E (2015) Why eco-labels can be effective marketing tools: evidence from a study on Italian consumers. Bus Strategy Environ 24(4):252–265. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.1821
Testa F, Iovino R, Iraldo F (2020) The circular economy and consumer behaviour: the mediating role of information seeking in buying circular packaging. Bus Strategy Environ. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2587
Thøgersen J, Haugaard P, Olesen A (2010) Consumer responses to ecolabels. Eur J Mark 44(11):1787–1810. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090561011079882
Thompson DW, Anderson RC, Hansen EN, Kahle LR (2010) Green segmentation and environmental certification: Insights from forest products. Bus Strategy Environ 19(5):319–334. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.647
Yenipazarli A (2015) The economics of eco-labeling: standards, costs and prices. Int J Prod Econ 170:275–286. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpe.2015.09.032
Zhang L, Li D, Cao C, Huang S (2018) The influence of greenwashing perception on green purchasing intentions: the mediating role of green word-of-mouth and moderating role of green concern. J Clean Prod 187:740–750. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.03.201
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Communicated by Matthias Finkbeiner
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Marrucci, L., Iraldo, F. & Daddi, T. Investigating the management challenges of the EU Ecolabel through multi-stakeholder surveys. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-01866-5
- Circular economy
- Green public procurement