Just because a product has a label stating its environmental credentials, it does not mean necessarily that the product is environmentally friendly. Greenwashing abounds, and it is hard for consumers to know what is truly “green” and what is not. Consumer Reports launched an Eco-Label App for iPhones to help consumers make informed choices.
The description of the Eco-Label App on the iTunes website asks, “How do you know just from looking at product labels which ones are truly meaningful and which ones aren’t worth the premium price?” Now iPhone and iPad users can make that distinction for the price of the app, $0.99. The app, according to the description, “covers food, personal care products and cleaners.”
The app is a mobile version of Consumer Reports’ site, Greenerchoices.org, which provides a wealth of information about so-called “green” products.
The Eco-Label app allows iPhone and iPad users to search for information either with an alphabetical label index or by product, and includes a label “report card.” For instance, the app describes the term “natural” as “not meaningful.”
“We’ve launched the mobile Eco-Label App to help consumers find out whether the claims on their favorite products are truthful,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.” As the popularity of green products continues to grow, it’s important to know which green marketing claims you can trust and which ones you can’t.”
A Consumer Reports press release on the Eco-Label app lists what consumers should look for in labels:
- The best labels are meaningful, verified, consistent, transparent, and independent. They are those that have been developed with broad public and industry input.
- General claims are those made voluntarily by the company and certified claims are generally those that have been approved by another certification group.
- While the term “organic” is highly meaningful on most foods, some products that claim to be such, like fish or fertilizers, do not have to meet the standards of the National Organic Program.
- Sustainable labels should address environmental, social and/or health concerns regarding products and production practices. Labels vary in breadth and depth of coverage, even very specific labels like “no growth promoters,” can add value to the conventional baseline.
The only problem with the Eco-Label app is that it is only available for iPhone users. It will be interesting to see if Consumer Reports develops an app for Android-based phones and tablet computers. Given the number of people using Android-based devices, including the author of this post, such an app is likely to be developed.
Photo: Flickr user, bfishadow