In 1989 the New Zealand Government published a discussion paper Labelling of Environmentally Friendly Goods and invited public submissions on the proposal that the government establish a voluntary ecolabelling scheme.

This arose from widespread interest in ecolabelling as a market-based means to use consumer interest in the environment to encourage companies to improve their products.

The eighty-four submissions received on the 1989 discussion paper expressed almost unanimous support for the proposal. This support was based largely on the need for clear guidance about the real environmental effects of products at a time when many companies were claiming to be "environmentally friendly" without any real basis.

It was recognised that there was a need for an ecolabelling programme which had:

  • credibility with all parties
  • practical and achievable environmental specifications
  • an independent management organisation
  • comparability with overseas schemes

Submissions were largely in favour of a label with Government backing which would be a credible guide for consumers. Cabinet set the initial objectives when it agreed to the programme in 1990.

These were to:

  • provide incentives for suppliers to reduce the environmental impacts of products sold in New Zealand
  • provide a clear, credible and independent guide to consumers wishing to take account of environmental factors in their purchasing decisions
  • encourage consumers to purchase products which have lower environmental impacts
  • recognise genuine moves by companies to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of their products
  • aim ultimately to improve the quality of the environment and to encourage the sustainable management of resources

As in 1990, there is still a need for unbiased information for consumers, from an organisation which is clearly independent but has the confidence of the government and the public. The same need for unbiased information could also apply to businesses seeking to reduce environmentally damaging aspects of their activities.

Subscribe to our e-newsletter: