July 31, 2003



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.11 (July 2003)

The term "environmental labels" refers to environmental information attached to products and services designed with the environment in mind. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) categorizes environmental labels into Type I, Type II and Type III.

TYPE I Type I labels are environmental labels approved by a third-party certification organization. In Japan, "Eco Mark" is this kind of environmental label. The Japan Environment Association sets approval criteria for each product category and approves application from manufacturers. The Eco Mark can be attached to approved products.

As of June 30, 2003, 5,533 products were approved in 60 product categories from 1,883 companies. The JEA website provides guidelines and criteria for approval as well as database of approved products.

TYPE II Type II labels cover a variety of declarations made by the companies themselves.

NEC defines and attaches the Eco Symbol to their products that have good environmental performance. Their target is to enhance the percentage of hardware products carrying the Eco Symbol to over 30 percent of sales by the fiscal year of 2003.

As an example of the reduction of environmental impacts, the power consumption in use of Eco Symbol products that came out on the market in fiscal 2000 is 59% lower than with conventional products. This would mean a total decrease of 410,000 tons in CO2 emissions, equivalent to the CO2 emissions from electricity consumption of approximately 120,000 households in one year.

Panasonic also introduced their environmental labels in April 2003.

Panasonic designates products with environmentally conscious design as "Green Products" and is making efforts to expand the number of Green Products in its product lines. Their target is to have 90 percent of all products in the Green Products category by 2010. In 2002, 583 products were designated as Green Products, accounting for 41 percent of newly developed products. This means that about 40 percent of projected annual sales of new products developed in fiscal 2002 would come from Green Products.

Toppan Printing has also established its own label for products with environmentally conscious designs.

Canon, Sharp, Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi and other manufacturers also have their own environmental labels.

In addition to such initiatives of individual companies, there are also collective efforts by industry. The Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA) , for example, created the "PC Green Label" in September 2001. This is an environmental label specially defined for personal computers, to offer environmental information to consumers who wish to purchase computers with environmentally conscious designs.
About the Association :

Different kinds of labeling systems exist, such as for energy conservation, and for buildings with good environmental and energy performance.
About the Association :

Zero Waste Partnership Committee, an environmental NGO comprised of 47 prefectures and 39 private organization (consumer groups, businesses and waste management-related organizations), have created marks that indicate the products use recycled papers. These include the "Green Mark," indicating the use of a certain percentage of used paper as a raw material, the "Recycled Milk Carton Mark," the "Forest Waste Wood" and "PET Bottle Recycling Mark," affixed to products made from recycled PET bottles.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport operates an approval system for low emission vehicles. There are three graded marks (superb, excellent, and good) depending on the degree of reduction of vehicle emissions.

Type III labels offer quantitative information on environmental impacts. In this category, The Japan Environmental Management Association of Industry (JEMAI) started the Ecoleaf system in June 2002.
Type III Eco-labeling Begins in Japan

Ecoleaf shows quantitative environmental information based on life cycle assessment of the products from extraction of resources, production, distribution, use, and disposal through to recycling stages.

In 2002, criteria were defined for 19 products and Ecoleaf marks for 56 products were registered and announced.

View the Ecoleaf for Ricoh products as an example.

JEMAI set up the Global Environmental Declaration Network (GEDnet) in 1999, soliciting participation from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Italy, Canada and South Korea with the aims of promoting international standardization of type III environmental labels, exchanging information among countries who have type III labels, and discussing mutual recognition internationally in the future. The Network has held meetings to report on situations in each country and to discuss international standardization.

Some industry sectors offer quantitative environmental information on their own. For example, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association has set up a platform for information on the environmental performance of each manufacturer.
About the Association :

The Japan Electrical Manufacturers' Association provides environmental information on home appliances with its "Eco Profile for Home Appliances." This is a database of environmental performance based on life-cycle analysis of home appliances manufactured by various companies.
About the Association:

How are these environmental labels recognized and used by consumers?

The most well known environmental label in Japan is the Eco Mark. The secretariat of Eco Mark conducted a survey in January 2001 and the result indicated that 92 percent of effective respondents knew the Eco Mark. The recognition rate is high among the young generation, in particular, as they learn about the Eco Mark at school as a part of their environmental education.

The Ministry of the Environment conducted a survey on green purchasing by local governments in November 2000. As a criteria or reference for green purchasing, Eco Mark was recognized by 100 percent at prefectural level, 81.4 percent at city level and 59.9 percent at town and village level. These results demonstrate that Eco Mark is highly recognized among the general public as well as government personnel in charge of green purchasing.

Type II are mainly used on a business-to-business basis. Type II and type III environmental labels are not as well recognized among general public , except by people who are highly environmental conscious. Many people believe that Eco Marks are synonymous with all environmental labels. It is necessary to enhance the awareness and understanding of environmental labeling among the general public so that they can benefit from the various kinds of environmental labels available, depending on their objectives and the information they need.

Many local governments have set up their own environmental labeling system with an aim of enhancing the environmental awareness of the public through daily purchasing activities. Such local government-led environmental labels include labels for products with recycled materials and approval labels of "Eco Shops" that offer environmentally conscious products and services.

NGOs are also making efforts. The NACS Committee on Environment has held various symposiums, meetings and exhibitions to enhance understanding about environmental labels among consumers. They also define "Ten Principles that Consumers Want in Environmental Labels."

1. Provide a sufficient amount of information.
2. Make it easy to understand.
3. Express it not ambiguously but concretely.
4. Give the total information picture.
5. Make it comparable.
6. Make it reliable.
7. Reflect the needs of society.
8. Verify the information.
9. Accommodate consumer's right to know.
10. Guarantee the consumer's right to speak out.

As a tool to push producers as well as consumers toward a sustainability, environmental labeling has to play an important role. We will watch and report updates on labeling system and its effectiveness.