Ecolabel South Africa is an independent voluntary labeling scheme that will develop criteria to reflect social and environmental best practice in South Africa with the aim of verifying and certifying businesses, products and services in their respective categories. Companies will be licensed to display a label demonstrating compliance with the Sustainable Business, Sustainable Products or Sustainable Services categories, as applicable.
Why Ecolabel South Africa?
Ecolabel South Africa will offer a formal structured process through which South African-based businesses can advance their sustainability initiatives – and be recognised for their efforts by consumers and procurement officials in the public and private sectors. It will provide structured measurement tools for businesses to assess their energy, water, waste and other operational adaptations as well as measure social conditions within their workforce against a national baseline.
Although comprehensive, the Ecolabel South Africa criteria will be widely accessible, allowing businesses of all sizes to participate. Ecolabel South Africa will not be prescriptive in terms of specific strategies but will rather leave scope for innovation. Nevertheless, the organisation has identified facilitation partners with the aim of helping companies strengthen areas where weaknesses have been identified.
The Ecolabel South Africa environmental criteria for products will be based on those of internationally recognised ecolabels. Therefore, by complying with our product criteria, your company will reduce the manufacturing adaptation required to export products to international markets.
What are the benefits of certification via Ecolabel South Africa?
Your company will benefit from certification via Ecolabel South Africa through an improved company image, not least because you will be meeting consumer demand for independently certified socially and environmentally sound products and services. Indeed, certification will strengthen your company's credibility. Consumers have long been suspicious of companies' social and environmental claims as these are generally self-assessed or the parameters are unclear. Obtaining certification via Ecolabel South Africa will therefore enhance consumer trust in your business, products and services.
From a trade perspective, certification will facilitate the export of products to international markets. Our product formulatory criteria will be founded on those of international ecolabels thus bringing locally manufactured products in line with international market requirements.
Furthermore, certification via Ecolabel South Africa may improve your bottom line. While your company may incur initial adaptation costs, you may save in the long term by complying with the Ecolabel South Africa criteria. The audit feedback your company receives will also highlight social and environmental areas in your business that could potentially be improved upon.
Reduced costs tied in with greater employee confidence and consumer trust, which could translate into increased sales, provide a positive business formula and offer a competitive advantage in the market.
What is the Sustainable Business category?
Despite also being a standalone category, compliance with the criteria in the Sustainable Business category is mandatory for all applications, irrespective of the product or service category for which certification is sought. The common core Sustainable Business criteria were borne from the need to address key local imperatives as well as broader sustainability issues and are an Ecolabel South Africa innovation. In practice, the Ecolabel South Africa criteria provide a comprehensive measurement, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of organisational sustainability. They focus on:
- ethical business practices
- local business support
- business planning
- employees' social and environmental perceptions, awareness and behaviours
- water consumption
- electricity consumption
- waste management
- contingency planning
- social responsibility
What is the Sustainable Products category?
Alongside compliance with the criteria in the Sustainable Business category, compliance with our product criteria is required for certification in the Sustainable Products category. This category will comprise various non-perishable products groups which will include the criteria of international ecolabels to facilitate compliance with export requirements. In essence, they will focus on ensuring products:
- are environmentally sound through the product lifecycle
- offer fewer health hazards
- are of good quality
Accordingly, the criteria will cover prohibited and limited substances, fragrances, volatile organic compounds, phosphorus, dyes/colouring agents, packaging, fitness for purpose, toxicity to aquatic organisms, biodegradability, user instructions and professional training (for industrial products). Of course, local legislation and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) benchmarks will serve as the minimum when determining the appropriate criteria.
What is the Sustainable Services category?
Alongside compliance with the criteria in the Sustainable Business category, compliance with our service criteria is required for certification in the Sustainable Services category. These criteria are wide-ranging and dependent on the specific service on offer. For example, for cleaning services, the criteria could include a minimum requirement for the use of ecolabelled cleaning products, bags and other implements as well as the controlled use of chemicals. In addition, specific work instructions may need to be followed with a comprehensive staff training programme and a detailed quality assessment system.
How does Ecolabel South Africa determine its criteria?
To develop criteria, we will conduct research to determine best practice both locally and abroad. The resultant proposal will then be evaluated and ultimately approved by an independent body called the Technical Advisory Board. Thereafter, an open consultative process involving industry and consumers will be followed to provide feedback on the applicability of the criteria in South Africa.
Following revisions based on this feedback, the Technical Advisory Board will either approve the criteria for publication or send them back to the Ecolabel South Africa technical team for further revision.
Which product groups can be certified?
Ecolabel South Africa will verify and certify products in the FMCG sector. We invite suggestions and proposals from industry and the general public regarding the product groups they would like to see ecolabelled. Once we receive proposals, we will conduct the appropriate feasibility studies. Our Technical Advisory Board will then either approve or decline a proposal.
Who can apply for certification?
Although the criteria are comprehensive, Ecolabel South Africa will be accessible to businesses of all sizes. Accordingly, any company whose product meets the criteria of a business, product or service category will be able to apply for certification via Ecolabel South Africa.
How can my company apply?
We have aimed to minimize the time, energy and resources required to apply for certification. Companies seeking certification will therefore be able to register and enter the relevant information online relatively quickly and easily, with audits arranged at their convenience. Product testing will be a separate activity undertaken by applicants via accredited laboratories, and the results will need to be submitted to Ecolabel South Africa as part of the auditing process.
How much does it cost?
No final figures are currently available regarding the cost of certification; however, the certification fee will be based on turnover. This fee will contribute to the cost of the assessment of online applications, on-site audits, relevant surveys, certification and brand use. Product laboratory testing is a separate activity undertaken by each applicant and is not included in our fee. Licenses will be renewable annually at which time a licence fee will become payable. All transactions will be processed online via a secure payment system.