Not excessive merit badges for the goods

More products marked ‘eco’ but with no proof of right to bear the label
By Semen Bogomazov

Of course, people tend to be attracted by the idea of goods being ‘environmentally friendly’; however, Belarus’ existing legislation governing eco-labelling needs tightening up, to ensure that only those with some claim to the notion can advertise as such. A recent EU/UNDP seminar, organised in Minsk, tackled the issue. Entitled Ecological Criteria and Order of Ecological Certification of Products, the event was part of an EU/UNDP project entitled Supporting the Development of a Comprehensive Framework of International Co-operation in the Field of Environment Protection in the Republic of Belarus.

Advertising without hype
Various foods are legally marked ‘Natural’ in Belarusian shops but no legislation is yet in place for labelling cosmetics, household chemicals, furniture or building materials as ‘eco-friendly’. Scandinavia uses its ‘Nordic Swan’ rating while Germany has the ‘Blue Angel’ and Russia the ‘Leaf of Life’. These logos indicate that manufacturing processes have had minimal impact on the environment. Belarus’ national ‘Leaf’ label was developed ten years ago but remains unmonitored, rendering it ineffective.

Who is worthy?
The European Union has clear criteria for determining ecological qualification, so Belarus will be drawing on this in creating its own legislation for regulating its ‘Leaf’ label. Irina Taratushkina, a thematic consultant on ecological certification for the EU/UNDP project, tells us, “Some Belarusian technical legislation has been developed with the assistance of national experts. In particular, criteria have been set regarding synthetic detergents, shampoo, furniture and flooring from wood and wooden materials. We should see legislation passed this year.”

Maryte Kuodyte, an international consultant on ecological labelling, from Lithuania, adds, “In the EU, ecological certification costs about 200-1200 Euros (plus 350 Euros annual tax). It’s not obligatory to gain certification but, in today’s competitive environment, customers are seeking innovative products with eco-labelling; such goods stand out from the rest.”

Belarusian environmental certification will be voluntary and confidential. The country produces a lot of high-quality products and companies are increasingly paying attention to environmental issues, so eco-labelling is likely to become popular, raising the competitiveness of products on the domestic market and abroad.
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