It’s a facilities or building’s managers’ job to understand the products and services they buy and the impact they have on the environment. Yet it’s a wildly different market for labelling and classification depending on where your products originate. So, here’s a quick roundup of the most common environmental, ‘eco’ or ‘green’ accreditations and credibility marks you’ll see on commercial cleaning products and services in the UK.
The ISO14001 certification is a globally agreed standard. Developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and administered locally by a number of accreditors (QMS is one), its purpose is to define the best practices for companies that want to reduce their environmental footprint. It helps businesses of all shapes and sizes to improve their environmental performance, make more efficient use of resources and reduce their waste production.
The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary award scheme intended to promote products that have a reduced environmental impact during their entire life cycle. It aims to provide “accurate, non-deceptive, science-based information on the environmental impact of products”. It is the official European Union voluntary label for ‘environmental excellence’ and was established in 1992.
The European Ecolabel is a recognised accreditation awarded to products of the “highest environmental and performance status”.
The EU Ecolabel criteria demonstrates a company’s commitment to the wellbeing of its employees by actively working to decrease their exposure to toxic substances at work. It also bases some of its key criteria on contributing to a circular economy, particularly key in the cleaning industry.
(Formerly the ‘Wright Environmental Impact Rating’ (W.E.I.R))
This unique system was devised for assessing the overall environmental impact of a product (cleaning or otherwise), taking into account its formulation, manufacturing process, use cases and later, the disposal of the product.
The system looks at the water used in the product, the impact of its use, the pH level, the energy used for manufacture and its transport and shipping requirements, as well as other factors. The lower the score, the lower a product’s overall impact on the environment under the old W.E.I.R, new GreenTick criteria.
Green Seal is a NFP environmental standard development and certification business. Certification is based on Green Seal’s set standards, which contain criteria including performance, health & safety and sustainability. Green Seal awards certifications to products (and services) that have proven to meet certain standards for sustainability across the entire life cycle of that product, from raw material extraction to disposal.
Ecocert is an organic certification organisation with French origins. Founded in 1991, it conducts inspections in over eighty countries, making it one of the most well know logo marks in the world. Displaying an Ecocert certification ecomark highlights a product or service’s environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices.
Natural cleaning products certification guarantees:
- environmentally friendly production & processing
- encouraged use of natural or organic ingredients
- responsible conservation of our natural resources
- ending use of most petrochemicals
Driving ‘sustainable lifestyles’, the Nordic Swan seal is the official ecolabel of the Nordics. It’s one of the hardest environmental certifications in the world to achieve. The Nordic ecolabel requires strict environmental requirements to be met in every stage of the product’s life cycle.
Recycled and/or Recyclable
The world renowned mobius green loop is used much more freely than the other seals and marks listed and may take endless forms.
Look out for detail around or inside the loop that specifies what percentage of the product or packaging is recyclable. Remember too that the actual ability to recycle it is dependant more on where you are based and what can be recycled locally.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Tick Tree Mark
This tick and tree ecomark is used to demonstrate when products are certified under the FSC system.
The FSC work hard to ensure forests are thriving for generations to come and that products made with wood or paper from FSC forests are from sustainable sources. FSC approved products have some of the highest social and environmental standards.
AISE Charter for Sustainable Cleaning
The Charter for Sustainable Cleaning is a voluntary initiative for the European soap, detergent, and maintenance products industry. It is administered by the Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (known as AISE).
The aim is to encourage the whole industry to undertake continual improvement in terms of sustainability. It also hopes to encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable ways of cleaning and maintaining hygiene.
Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
Internationally, laws on identifying, classifying and labelling hazardous chemicals differ. It can be very confusing if you are looking to innovate. What’s labelled toxic in one country may not be considered so in another country, and this inevitably creates serious problems for global trade.
To cater to the growing market in chemicals, help protect people and the environment, and to facilitate internationsl commerce, the United Nations (UN) developed the ‘Globally Harmonized System’ (GHS) for classification and labelling of dangerous chemicals.
Where hazardous chemical cleaning agents are present in a product, a red diamond-shaped hazard pictograms indicate this on the label. These are the most commonly known pictograms highlighting serious chemicals and toxins and how they should be handled.
Voluntary EU Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria for Indoor Cleaning Services
These are EU regulations and do not have a logo mark for compliance but it covers biodegradability and the protection of the environment, as well as use of recycled materials, and consuming less energy during product whilst reducing emissions to air, water and land. It’s worth looking out for cleaning services that comply with these currently voluntary, but very important and helpful criteria.
A handy list of all UK Ecomarks and their meanings can be found here.
What other approval marks can I find on commercial cleaning products?
Seals for allergen sufferers
While ‘allergy approved’ and ‘cleaning chemicals’ rarely exist in the same sentence, new innovative all natural or probiotic cleaning products mean some cleaning detergents will be now able to show these marks.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) has been in sharp focus since the pandemic and cleaning activities certainly contribute to a building’s IAQ so using probiotics is a great way to help both your occupants and the environment. We recommend looking out for the following seals of approval:
British Allergy Foundation Seal of Approval
The British Allergy Foundation endorsement scheme covers a wide range of products (from air conditioners to cleaning products) that are knowns to specifically restrict or remove high levels of key allergens from the air and natural environment.
Products with the Allergy UK seal of approval may help make life more comfortable for people living with allergies and asthma. They have been reviewed or tested and approved by Allergy Research Ltd
Seals for animal lovers
It’s hard to consider protecting the natural environment with out sparing a thought for the wildlife within in. Increasingly there is consumer and employee demand to consider cruelty free products which do not causing harm to animals in their making or testing. Again, while not strictly an ecomark and fairly uncommon in the traditional chemical cleaning market, you may now start to see these cruelty free marks on mainstream chemical alternatives like probiotic cleaning products.
Cruelty Free International logo
The well known PETA caring consumer cruelty-free is a label is used for products or activities that do not harm or kill animals anywhere in the world.
Certified by PETA’s original ‘Beauty Without Bunnies Program’, this makes it one of the most well-known third-party cruelty-free certifications internationally.
Leaping Bunny logo
The Leaping Bunny Logo introduced in 1996 is the only internationally recognised symbol that guarantees buyers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it. The companies’ ingredient suppliers also have to make the same pledge and the result is a product guaranteed to be free of all new animal testing.
Certified Vegan by Vegan Action
The Certified Vegan Logo is a registered trademark, similar in nature to the kosher mark, designed specifically for products that do not contain animal products or by-products. It also shows that products have not been tested on animals.
Vegan Society Trademark
The Vegan Trademark has been helping buyers identify that their products are free from animal ingredients. The society has been accrediting vegan products since 1990.