Eco-labels, certifications, and seals of approval serve a variety of functions including communicating to businesses and consumers the environmental attributes of a particular product and incentivizing improvements in production. Eco-labels also provide a basis for companies to set measurable sustainability goals for sourcing, improvements, and transparency. As they gain greater traction in the marketplace, however, there has been a massive proliferation of labels, certifications, and green seals of approval. This has led to consumer confusion, inaccurate and misleading claims, and inconsistent standards. A 2009 survey identified about 600 labels that denote some definition of “environmentally friendly” worldwide, including more than 80 on products sold in the United States. The U.S. alone has at least 19 eco-labels and environmental certifications in the food context. Consumer demand for eco-labeled food products has grown in conjunction with knowledge about pesticides and the potential ill effects from consumption, as well as consumer concerns over deforestation, biodiversity, and fair labor. These concerns have expanded the scope of eco-labels from the initial health-based focus. This Article addresses this proliferation of environmental claims through labels and certifications in the food context -- a trend many have argued is necessary to moving the U.S. national food system toward a sustainable future.
Jason Czarnezki et. al., Creating Order Amidst Food Eco-Label Chaos, 25 Duke Envtl. L. & Pol'y F. 281, (2015), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/998/.