Retailers asked to challenge credibility of eco-labels

Businesses that use sustainability labels for their product will be able to test the credibility of their claims with a new tool developed to increase transparency throughout the supply chain.

‘Challenge the Label’ is a web-based tool developed by ISEAL Alliance – the global association for sustainability standards and labels after 18 months of dialogue with retailers, policymakers and standard-setters from across the world.

The initiative encourages companies to dig deeper and ask important questions of their sustainability partners to determine whether their products are really ‘biodegradable’ or ‘carbon-neutral’ as the label may suggest.

“It’s a jungle of sustainability claims and labels out there and this makes it confusing for businesses who are trying to find the right suppliers and partners for their objectives,” said ISEAL executive director Karin Kreider.

“ISEAL developed ‘Challenge the Label because we have been defining credibility in standards and labels for more than a decade and we wanted to create something that would point out a few simple truths of credible claims, but also bring together a wealth of additional resources and tools for companies to dig even deeper and support their own credibility.”

Five truths

Statistics from the Ecolabel Index reveal that there are more than 400 eco-labels on the market, making it difficult for any company to know which to trust, given the array of sustainability promises, claims and language found on products.

With this new tool, ISEAL identified that sustainability claims from these eco-labels should at least meet ‘Five Universal Truths to Sustainability’. This is calculated in the form of five questions that the business should answer: –

Is the label clear?
Is it relevant?
It is accurate?
Is it backed up by a system that is transparent and robust?

Challenge the Label initiative can be applied to any claim or label, whether B2B or B2C, that focuses on sustainability in some way. It can also provide guidance for a company in developing their own claims and labels.


Speaking of this new tool, Todd Newman, vice-president of emerging categories at Bumblebee Seafoods – a company that uses the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label on its products – said: “for us at Bumblebee, a common challenge is to have a robust system behind our sustainable seafood messages. 

“When we assessed the eco-labels out there, we looked at our need for strong verification and traceability and based on this we chose the most credible partner for our needs.”

The Challenge the Label website is now live at

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie