OECD Environment Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected studies on environmental issues prepared for use within the OECD. Authorship is usually collective, but principal authors are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language English or French with a summary in the other if available.


A Characterisation of Environmental Labelling and Information Schemes

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the international landscape of environmental labelling and information schemes (ELIS), defined as policies and initiatives that aim to provide information about one or more aspects of the environmental performance of a product or service to external users. First, a review of initiatives and actors is used to build an institutional map of the diversity of schemes. Second, the universe of ELIS is dissected, based on a list of identified characteristics affecting the modes of communication of such schemes and the nature of the standards on which they are based. Lastly, the growth in ELIS is analysed by these identified characteristics, using a dataset of 544 ELIS introduced between 1970 and 2012 covering 197 countries.

Results from this analysis support the rapid in the number of ELIS, especially in the late 1990s and between 2007 and 2010. At the same time, these figures suggest that this growth might have slowed since 2010. The analysis also shows both the diversity and unequal growth of ELIS according to different characteristics. The growth in ELIS appears to be driven by the combination of an increase in the number of “traditional” ELIS, such as single-issue environmental seals, and the emergence of “more recent” types of ELIS, including quantitative reports. This combination highlights the tension between increased competition among similar ELIS, and the emergence of new schemes potentially less exposed to direct competition but facing larger entry challenges. The dataset also shows that the multiplicity of ELIS may not be present for all types of products and environmental areas in all countries.

These findings provide a contextual basis to look at evidence on the potential implications of having a multiplicity of schemes, and analyse the current and possible need for policy responses to identified challenges.


Keywords: product environmental footprints, institutional interactions, environmental reporting, information policy approaches, eco-label
JEL: Q56: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth; Q58: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Environmental Economics: Government Policy; L15: Industrial Organization / Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance / Information and Product Quality; Standardization and Compatibility
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