Shoppers who want to be sure that a product is good for the environment can look for some sort of official seal of approval or certification. However marketers are on to this and are not beyond making up such a label. TerraChoice found that "More than 32% of 'greener' products found in this study carried such a fake label, compared to the 26.8% in 2009... Ease of access to false, completely meaningless eco-labels has become almost comical."
Green labels can have many origins:
Some schemes include independent verification by third parties, many don’t. They are generally voluntary; that is, manufacturers and service providers choose whether to participate although some, particularly energy labels, are mandatory in some countries. Some labels give a rating, some provide comparative information in a standard format, others are just a symbol of approval.
However even certification schemes that are not industry-based, often rely on industry sources for information about the life cycle of a product, including manufacturing details and options. "There is therefore a clear risk that the involvement of local or national producers could lead to industry 'capture' of a label that consumers believe offers an independent assessment of a product".
The Ecolabel Index now lists more than 435 labels in 197 countries in 25 industry sectors. A competing organisation, Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) has hundreds of government and advocacy group members worldwide.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has formulated standards to cover voluntary eco-labels, including ISO 14024, for standards that are supposed to be based on life-cycle assessments of products and services (from raw material extraction, through production, distribution to disposal) and are authorised by a third party.
TerraChoice's 2010 survey of over 5000 home and family products in Canada and the US found that only 70% of products making environmental claims that had ISO 14024 certification were guilty of one or more of its seven 'sins of greenwashing' compared with 95% of all products making such claims.