The International Organisation for Standardization’s (ISO’s) Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO) and its Conformity Assessment Committee (CASCO) have agreed to set up a joint working group (JWG49) to carry out comprehensive research on the use of multiple ethical labels in the marketplace and the challenges they represent to consumers. As a first step, JWG 49 will conduct joint research to:
- Set up the context, the current situation/landscape in terms of the use of various ethical labels;
- Investigate where the confusion comes from for the consumer;
- Identify the existing documents and best practices with regards to ethical labelling and how they can be integrated and communicated better, and where needed complemented by additional documents.
Businesses around the world have been relying on environmental and ethical labels to visualise their commitments to environmental and social sustainability. This has given rise to the global proliferation of environmental and ethical labelling schemes. It has been noted that consumers can become confused by the multiple labels they find in the marketplace and that labelling requirements can be clarified and better defined to bring about transparency for consumers on what they mean.
In 1993, the ISO convened Sub-Committee (SC) 3 under Technical Committee (TC) 207 to work on developing standards in the field of environmental labelling, including first-party practices (self-declaration/claims), and guiding principles for third-party certification programmes (private and government). The ISO 14020 series standards developed by ISO TC 207/SC 3 have become the prevailing norm in the environmental labelling sector, widely adopted by environmental labelling scheme owners. Although there is not yet an internationally recognised standard to govern the operation of ethical labelling schemes, the launch of ISO JWG 49 demonstrates the ambition of ISO to standardise the social pillar behind the subject of sustainability.
Reference: Working Document of ISO/CASCO/COPOLCO JWG 49 on ethical labelling