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Frequently Asked Questions

Ecolabelling

How is Ecolabelling regulated?

The global principles and procedures for ecolabelling are set out by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) in its standard ISO 14024, which identifies three types of ecolabels:

  • Type I: a multi-attribute ecolabel developed by a third party
  • Type II: a single-attribute ecolabel developed by the producer themselves
  • Type III: an ecolabel based on a full life-cycle assessment

Of these, the Type 1 ecolabel is recognised as the most robust and credible.  Eco-Choice Africa operates as a Type I ecolabel.

 How does ECA comply with ISO14024?

ECA is guided fully by the requirements of ISO14024 in respect of the development, management and auditing processes of ecolabels. All standards issued by ECA have been developed in accordance with ISO14024 by respected organisations in the field, and they meet the prescribed structure for ISO14024 recognition.

ECA is the only not-for-profit, independent Type 1 ecolabel on the continent.

How are ECA’s standards developed?

The ECA standards are developed by standards setting organisations in any one of the 25 members of the Global Ecolabelling Network. ECA is not a standards setting body, but we adopt and ‘adapt’ standards that have been developed by GEN members in countries that reflect the most appropriate conditions to our market region. This process does not include changes to any standard that could affect its compliance to ISO14024 or which could conflict with local legislation or established standards.

Can anyone apply for an ecolabel?

Yes, any manufacturer can apply for an ecolabel for as long as a specific standard exists. ECA has started recognition of certain categories of products and services only, but this will be expanded as demand for ecolabelling increases.

What elements should a reputable ecolabel have?

A reputable ecolabel should be able to demonstrate the following key elements:

  • transparency in its standards and standards development process
  • independence from any vested interest
  • consistency in the application of its standards
  • the use of independent third party accreditation and verification processes

Key qualities to look for in when selecting an ecolabel are:

  • independence
  • transparency and consistency in its standards
  • relevance to local conditions
  • verification of compliance is undertaken by an independent laboratory accredited by SANAS or its international equivalent.  The Certification body should have no ties or affiliation with the testing facility.

Robustness, credibility and impartiality are what build the reputations of good ecolabels so that suppliers and consumers can come to trust them.

But do Ecolabels make a difference?

Yes they do. By gaining consumer confidence and trust, ecolabels help increase sales of products that perform better socially and environmentally. In this way, they can help drive demand and supply of more sustainable production and consumption by influencing or affirming positive actions by consumers, retailers, manufacturers and producers alike. Ultimately this can lead to changing social norms and expectations of certain products.

A good example of this can be seen in paints. Paint fumes are caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have adverse impacts on human health and well-being as well as the environment, causing air pollution, asthma and headache, for example. Increasing public and business demand for less toxic, low VOC paints has resulted in changes in manufacturing and production. Now, low VOC paints are widely available and commonly used in commercial and domestic building projects.

Getting Certified with ECA

What does a Licensing Agreement with ECA involve?

All applicants to the ECA Ecolabelling Programme are required to enter into a Licensing Agreement with ECA once an ecolabel has been approved. This agreement sets out the rules that apply to the use of the Licence Certificate, ECA Ecolabel and applicable licensing fees. The Agreement requires the licensee to maintain the standards associated with the Licence; including the need to ensure that any new requirements are adhered to in a timely manner. It also subjects the Licencee to subject itself to scheduled audits and reviews and to advise ECA of any changes in production, distribution or labelling that may occur during the period of the Agreement.

How long is an ECA Licence valid?

Each ECA Licence is valid for a year from date of issue. The applicant is required to renew its licence and update its details with ECA on an annual basis to ensure that it maintains the standards of the programme. It also provides for a cut-off period for payment of fees.

A Licensing Agreement is the agreement between the licensee and GECA. This agreement sets out the rules that apply to the use of the Licence Certificate, GECA Ecolabel and licensing fees. This states that the licensee will keep up to date with any required audits to ensure conformance as requested by GECA. It also outlines the way in which you can use the GECA Logo to promote your product.

How is my product licence displayed?

The ECA ecolabel licence number is an integral part of the ECA logo which is provided to the applicant. Each certified product or range of products must reflect the relevant licence number clearly alongside the ECA logo.

Is my licence valid for my products sold or distributed under another brand or name?

No it isn't.  While your product status will not be affected, in order for any third-party distributor or agency wish to market your product under their own label or name, a separate licence fee is payable by the third -party distributor for the use of the ECA label ontheir packaging.  This fee will vary accoding to the nature, extent and distribution area concerned.  Only a licenced company may use the Eco-Choice label on their original product packagiung.

May I sub-licence my product to other distributors or companies?

No, you may not.  A Licence is issued to the manufacturer or primary supplier of the product.  Should your clients thereafter wish to use the Eco-Choice label on their range of products that use your original Licenced product, they must apply for a sub-licence from ECA.  If your Licence is withdrawn, cancelled or suspended, all sub-licences are affected too. 

Is there any situation in which the licence number awarded by ECA will change?

The licence number does not change during the Agreement period, unless it is allowed to expire or there is a substantial change in the manufacturing process. In these cases the licence number may change. ECA retains the right to change a licence number, but this is done with due regard for the implications to the applicant.  Where a new category of labelling is introduced - and existing licence holders have already been licenced in a different category, they will be asked to meet the new standard in order to remain licenced.

Are there any ongoing compliance requirements?

Yes, each applicant/licencee is required to undergo scheduled surveillance and manufacturing audits to ensure their products still conform to the standards to which they were certified. Standards and products may change during the life of a Licence and as such, Licences must be renewed each year and applicants must undergo a review.

Does ECA conduct random audits?

Yes, ECA reserves the right to conduct random reviews and audits of Licencees to establish whether the standards are being applied correctly. Random reviews can also be triggered by complaints and concerns that are raised by consumers or the manufacturing sector itself.

How often are the standards revised?

ECA standards generally have a five year review cycle - unless there is an international change that is required for health or safety reasons.  The latest version of standards is always available on the ECA website.

What if we already hold an international ecolabel?

If you already hold a current ecolabel certificate from any member of the Global Ecolabel Network (GEN), all you will need to do is provide a copy of the current international testing certificate and ecolabel licence with your application. This will avoid having to go through the independent laboratory testing phase for as long as the international label is maintained and the testing certificate is valid. ECA reserves the right to insist on local testing at all times, and a Licence can be withdrawn or refused should this not be undertaken on demand by the applicant.

It is important to understand that ecolabels are generally localised or national initiatives, and an international ecolabel often does not transfer to local conditions. Therefore, get your Eco-Choice ecolabel for African conditions.

Will I need to undergo reviews and surveilance audits?

Yes, you are required to complete regular surveillance audits to ensure your products still conform to the standards to which they were certified. Standards and products may change during the life of a Licence and as such, within the first 12 months of licensing, and roughly 24 months thereafter, applicants will be required to undergo a surveillance audit to ensure the prescribed ECA standard is still being met.

How are Licensing Fees generated and how much is it going to cost?

License fees are payable on application and annually on the anniversary date your License Certificate was awarded. The first years’ licence fees are payable upon application by the applicant. These are based on any one of the following rules:

  • for a new product or one that has not been trading for at least a year before application, a one-off fee is payable according to the scale published by ECA
  • for products that have been trading for at least a year before the application, a fee of 1.5% of gate sales for the previous year is payable for each product licenced by ECA

All fees are calculated on one year’s sales figures (NET sales figures (gate sales), not including VAT) for product(s) that have been Licenced by ECA. Sales figures need to be specified on the Licence Renewal Form which must be submitted to ECA at least one month prior to the renewal date.

What happens to my product when the licence is terminated?

If your Licence is terminated for any reason, you are immediately required to remove the Eco-Choice ecolabel from your products and any promotional items that may include the label. 

What if we continue to use the ecolabel after a licence has expired?

In the unlikely event that a manufacturere continues to make use of the ECA Ecolabel after expiration of its licence, ECA shall take appropriate legal steps to protect the integrity of the licence system and could impose a fine of as much as double the annual turnover for products on which the expired ecolabel is used.  This does not exclude other action as may be considered necessary by ECA.

What if I have a very small business with limited turnover. Can I afford to apply?

If your business is very small and you have limited turnover, ECA will negotiate a fee schedule to suit your specific business model.