SUSTAINABILITY CORNER: Understanding Ecolabelling
Right through the course of Diversey’s nearly 95 years of providing revolutionary cleaning and hygiene technologies, we’ve demonstrated that protecting and improving the environment is good for business. Although it’s been given many names since 1923, sustainability has been at the core of the value Diversey delivers to customers. Our vision, rooted in sustainability, is to create a healthy and safe world where people thrive. It inspires us to develop purposeful innovations that keep hospitals, hotels, offices and other building environments clean and hygienic. Having sustainability integrated within our operations has already helped us reduce greenhouse gas emissions 24.5 per cent, plastic waste 32.5 per cent, and water consumption 14.5 per cent since 2006.
Sustainability & offerings
This commitment to sustainability is also evident in the solutions we bring to our customers. Throughout our products design, use, and consumption, life-cycle thinking helps us deliver a wide array of social and environmental benefits to our customers. We are committed to creating healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly products based on green chemistry. Our products are designed to be safe for users and the environment, taking into consideration acute and chronic toxicity, irritation, biodegradability, and aquatic toxicity. The products are not only ‘green’ because of the chemicals used, but our holistic approach to sustainability means the solutions help customers save water, conserve energy, and prevent waste.
Going ahead the International Organization for Standardization defines ecolabels in ISO 14024 as: ‘a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party programme that awards a license which authorises the use of environmental labels on products indicating overall environmental preferability of a product…’ Ecolabels can be a useful way of communicating a product’s environmental credentials in a simple, credible manner.
Most of the Diversey’s product range are certified by leading ecolabel organisations such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, Good Environmental Choice Australia, EU Ecolabel (aka EU Flower), and Nordic Swan. Our leadership position on ecolabels reflects our commitment to sustainability and our responsibility to supply solutions that are safe for their intended use for both the user and the environment. Unfortunately, there is no globally accepted set of criteria for ecolabelling cleaning products leading to contradictory standards. A chemical allowed by some ecolabel schemes may be prohibited by the leading ecolabel in a different part of the world.
There are also some product categories that do not have ecolabel standards. When determining whether to get an ecolabel, we consider many factors like: are the criteria science based? Do they truly improve the sustainability profile of products? Is there a level playing field for all manufacturers? How transparent are the criteria? What are the costs? How much time will certification require? How does the certification impact our customers? Will the ecolabel cause more complexity and uncertainty? Will it impact availability of the products, manufacturing location, and logistics? Will the ecolabel result in a product that won’t work as well and cause additional waste of water, energy, and chemicals?
While we recognise the role ecolabels play by simplifying a sometimes complicated message, ecolabels will never be the single goal of sustainability in the cleaning and sanitation industry. Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond just certification to help customers with their broader sustainability goals. Greener and safer chemistry is important, but not at the expense of product, packaging, and shipping waste due to the solution not working effectively the first time.
Diversey’s product development process requires that all products get evaluated against sustainability criteria prior to launch and the products must offer quantifiable sustainability benefits by saving water, conserving energy, preventing waste, or increasing safety. While ecolabels can help communicate in the marketplace, they are not the final goal when developing sustainable products.