Eco group fights boycott of green labelling scheme

The UK Eco-labelling Board is stepping up its efforts to promote the eco-friendly labelling scheme, which has been threatened by a manufacturer boycott.

The government quango, which was set up in 1992 to push the European Union’s eco-labelling programme, has hired Delaney Fletcher Bozell to devise an advertising campaign targeting manufacturers and consumers.

The EU scheme has been criticised by many brand owners for confusing consumers and so far only Hoover has applied to use the eco-label symbol, which now appears on its New Wave washing machines.

Sources in the detergents industry say that manufacturers in the sector are unlikely to join the scheme because consumer recognition is so poor. Added to this, some see the 50,000 detergent application and assessment cost as prohibitive. Paper manufacturers are understood to be equally reticent.

Eco-labelling agreements on criteria for different sectors have also been dogged by delays, and the scheme has come under fire from animal rights campaigners for ignoring vivisection issues.

Zanussi marketing director Ian Symes says: “At present, eco-labelling only serves to confuse the consumer through its overlap with energy labelling and, until this conflict has been addressed, the consumer will not be in a position to benefit from eco-labelling.”

DFB will be promoting the scheme to shoppers and retailers, but with only 300,000 allocated to the account in the next 18 months, there are doubts it can make much impact.

Paulette Dupree, of the UK Eco-labelling Board, says that when the programme covers an increased number of product groups, more manufacturers will take part.

She claims various products are in the process of being assessed for eco-labelling, but refuses to say which.

“There is a tremendous amount of work needed to get the message across to consumers. But in the new year we hope there will be eco-label products in the supermarkets,” she adds.

Mark Lund, managing director of DFB, says: “Eco-labelling is small now but it’s going to be huge.”

The agency’s campaign will consist of ads in the middle-market press carrying the strap: “The eco-label. Your eco-guarantee.”

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