There are truly enough seals, labels, and awards in the field of sustainability – but which ones keep their promises? And what do they actually promise? Which ones can you trust? What do the sometimes rather mysterious titles or abbreviations mean? Which ones are simply marketing inventions by highly-paid agencies in order to increase the sales figures by capitalizing on the “green wave”?
Despite the confusing variety of “green” labels, over *60% of the population wants a recognizable seal that is 100% representative of true ecological sustainability.
Our mission is to honor small to medium-sized companies that are dedicated to ecological sustainability and to provide them with the same level of media attention that the “big guys” get.
* This was the result of an annual market research study conducted in eight countries.
The value of the GREEN BRANDS process is honored in the following statements:
Dr. Friedrich HinterbergerPresident Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI); Vienna
“There are only few government eco-labels. But there are more and more private organizations committed to filling this gap. Certificates like the bio label, MSC, and the FSC are good approaches to inform the consumers on the guidelines of production and to support them in an environmentally and socially compatible consumption. However, most of the time, the acquisition of such labels is expensive and, due to the complex certification procedures connected therewith, it is more to the benefit of the industry rather than the small and medium-sized companies. Against this backdrop, GREEN BRANDS is committed to a serious, affordable, and communicable alternative having the potential to bring light into the dark of the sustainability labels. The overriding thought in the development of the standards for “green brands” (GREEN BRANDS) was: It is not only the individual criteria such as climate friendliness or the absence of harmful substances. As important as these aspects are: True green brands need to face ecological challenges in a more comprehensive sense.
Make ecological sustainability visible.
For many years, we at the SERI have been thinking about how companies can inform their customers on the consumption of resources related to the manufacturing of products. And we do not only have in mind the “non-renewable resources” but also the “renewable ones”. Because the area where they grow is limited and we need to use them carefully. The same applies for fresh usable water: Also water renews itself again and again in the global water cycle but it is – like good soil – limited and may not be exhausted.
This is what GREEN BRANDS takes into consideration: The validation procedure asks for information on the company’s dealing with natural resources in all important categories. These efforts are important and it is hoped that also the state and the EU will set standards accordingly. As long as that does not happen, private initiatives like GREEN BRANDS are required which, as independent, international brand marketing organisations, make a contribution to the transparency of our “greening” markets and also see that the consumers’ trust is not lost through “green washing”.
During the preparation of the standards, SERI attached great importance to the fact that all companies/brands which would like to join GREEN BRANDS are able to prove that they are being serious about ecology. However, the criteria are not only to give ecological “guidance” but can also be met by small companies without losing in quality.
Especially with regard to smaller companies and in trade, it is important to have a look across the borders of one’s own company and to have a look at the “ecological rucksacks” caused by products. Everything a company achieves with its value chain is ecologically and socially relevant. The GREEN BRANDS procedure applied nowadays is an important step along this path and more have to follow year after year. We think it possible that also social and economical criteria will be incorporated in the procedure in the future.
The reason why a procedure like GREEN BRANDS is required nowadays can also be seen from the list of “exclusion criteria” for the nomination:
- Production of or trade in weapons and military equipment
- Child labour
- Energy companies involved in nuclear energy companies
- Genetic engineering
- Companies/products violating the protection of species (CITES provisions/ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
- Animals experiments
- Violation of ILO criteria (respect for social justice as well as human rights and labour laws
- Tobacco industry
Today, every nominated company/every brand has to answer about 60 questions which include the company’s purpose, the application of environmental management and CSR as well as concrete details on the consumption of resources, emissions and waste but which also comprise the raising of consciousness in the company itself as well as the communication with customers and suppliers. We think: Only passing such a comprehensive evaluation justifies that a candidate is honored as a GREEN BRAND.
Transparency creates trust: The questionnaire and the criteria for the evaluation of the individual product or company can of course be accessed by everybody on the GREEN BRANDS website. The questionnaire is also a suitable checklist for companies which would like to find out already today where there might be potential for improvement for them.
Considering the large number, the scope and depth of the considered topics, it is truly not easy to pass the benchmark of 51% which is required in order to qualify for the GREEN BRANDS label. However, the procedure also allows for awarding companies, products, and services with the GREEN BRANDS seal which may, in some respects, be below the average as long as they are clearly positively organized on the whole.
Ecological sustainability needs to become mainstream.
We know from experience that sustainability is different in small companies compared to large ones and that structural sustainability is often not sufficiently acknowledged by small companies and, consequently, it is not really recorded. These companies often lack experience and resources in order to promote their own brand successfully as well as access to the media. However, it is especially these small companies which, as the pioneers and against all odds, have achieved much in order to sow the many little green plants which are now springing up everywhere.
One of the biggest challenges of our time is to support such companies, put them in the focus of attention and help them to make further and more complex contributions to true sustainability – not only ecologically but also socially. It is a contribution in order to trigger a profound change into the direction of sustainability and to spread it further. In this respect, GREEN BRANDS makes a valuable contribution in Germany, Austria, and soon in other countries. Further steps need to be taken by companies, consumers, and the politicians.”
Dr. Christoph LeitlPresident of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO); Vienna
“Being awarded the GREEN BRANDS seal honors the commitment to climate protection, sustainability, and ecological responsibility of brands, products, services and companies which verifiably practice ecological sustainability and, consequently, deserve credit.
Thus, the brand is a decisive key to market success. The honoured GREEN BRANDS represent the central value of a company because they turn a service or product into something unique and distinctive. This is important especially for small and medium-sized companies because they are often not open to competition based on prices. Discounts and a policy of cuts lead to short-term success but are not suitable for a sustainable, healthy growth. In the future, the brand’s attractiveness and emotionality will be decisive for the customer. Green marketing needs to be authentic: Only if green brands and products are underpinned by facts will the green image be credible for the customer.
The GREEN BRANDS award is important to me because these companies are strongly motivated, with a look at the future, to continue to assume their responsibility with regard to more environmental protection and sustainability. This award makes their social commitment comprehensible and perceptible for third parties to experience it also outside of the company. I thus congratulate all honoured companies which have set out on the way to more sustainability.”
KommR Margarete Kriz-ZwittkovitsPresident of the Austrian Trade Society (ÖGV); Vienna
“The ÖGV supports GREEN BRANDS Austria and invites its members to also get involved. GREEN BRANDS Austria is an important contribution in order to put those companies and products which support an ‘economy of the future’ into the centre of attention. Among the GREEN BRANDS, there are renowned companies and extraordinary products which all have in common that they share the values of the ÖGV. Hence, it is a primary aim of the Austrian Trade Society to support this initiative. Let us put GREEN BRANDS into the centre of attention and let us talk about them. They are the beacon of an economy of the future.”
Michael MüllerSenator for Urban Development and the Environment in Berlin
“Of course everybody would like to protect the environment. Everyone would like to help in the battle against climate change and energy efficiency concerns all of us. With regard to these important questions, good examples, role models, and initiatives are helpful, in a wider and narrower context, to show what can be done. That’s why it is good that GREEN BRANDS now also honors companies and brands in Germany which have proven in a three-stage evaluation procedure that they are ‘green brands’. ‘Green brands’ which show commitment to climate protection, sustainability and ecological responsibility.
In my role as the Senator for the Environment in Berlin, I’m pleased about this initiative. Especially because I know from my everyday work how important these role models are. They show that what we all had in mind for a better environment actually works: Dealing with our environment sustainably and resource-friendly.
Of course it is also important to show the consumers and business colleagues how they can act particularly environmentally friendly. With its award, GREEN BRANDS makes a contribution to this orientation. The honoured companies become important role models for others.”
Prof. Dr. Maximilian GegeChairman of B.A.U.M. e.V.; Hamburg
“The commitment of green companies becomes evident for consumers, suppliers, and other stakeholders in particular through their socially acceptable and environmentally compatible products. The brand, the flagship of the product, is thus an important instrument to emphasize one’s ecological efforts in public. Those who only make use of green washing will be exposed immediately. Interested consumers have a close look when it comes to how seriously companies actually promote their sustainability strategy.
An initiative like GREEN BRANDS supports this development by presenting brands whose actions are particularly climate friendly, environmentally compatible and sustainable and which are thus “green brands”. With the GREEN BRANDS quality seal, companies, products, initiatives, and personalities are honored that are committed to the sustainable development of our economy and life-style, the turnaround in energy consumption, and climate protection. They implement this ecologically sustainable strategy and act as a role model for social responsibility. This leads to a high recognition value and makes it easier for the consumers to identify those brands which represent environmental and climate protection, resource conservation, and sustainability.
With GREEN BRANDS, an important and unique certificate has been created which enables companies to present their GREEN BRANDS SEAL in public, consequently boost their sales and, at the same time, make a valuable contribution to the transformation to a sustainable society. That’s why the German Association of Environmental Management supports this organization to its best ability.”