Sustainability certifications & symbols
What do they mean?
Certifications, symbols and logos on packaging can be a minefield. With well over 460 sustainability certifications and logos on packaged goods, businesses and consumers alike are often confused by what they really mean. Some symbols and certifications are valuable and demonstrate a true commitment to responsible practices within the supply chain. Others are unfortunately meaningless marketing speak without a robust sustainability message.
Here, we look at common sustainability symbols and
certifications to help you better understand what they mean.
Seedling Logo – Certified Compostable
This logo means that the product or packaging is compostable and has been certified as meeting the EU standard which is EN13432.
Product or packaging that meet this standard will break down in an industrial composter within 12 weeks. These products belong in the brown compost bin along with food waste.
This symbol is part of a ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ initiative but is often seen on Irish packaging too.
This symbol doesn’t have anything to do with recycling but acts as a reminder to dispose of your waste correctly.
The Green Dot: Financial Contribution
Often confused with the recycling logo, this symbol is widely used on packaging and merely signifies that the manufacturers have made a financial contribution to recycling services in Europe.
It does NOT mean that the product or packaging itself is recyclable.
This symbol is called the mobius loop and means that the packaging is theoretically recyclable, however it does not mean that it is widely recyclable in Ireland.
Sometimes, the symbol will come with a percentage in the middle which signifies how much of it has been made from recycled materials.
More helpfully, there is often a number (or resin code) in the centre which is very helpful as it clarifies the exact plastic type, which helps identify whether it is widely recyclable in Ireland or not.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
This certification is commonly found on paper products and indicates that the material has been made from wood sourced from a responsibly managed forest, in compliance with the FSC’s independent guidelines.
The Nordic Swan or Nordic Ecolabel is the official sustainability ecolabel for the Nordic countries. This label is similar to FSC, but used on paper products from Nordic forests.
PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)
This is the world’s largest forest certification system and sets the standard to transform the way forests are managed globally from an environment, social and economic perspective.
Carbon Neutral Certification
This symbol shows that a product or company’s total emissions have been offset with a combination of in-house measures (such as reducing energy use, increasing energy efficiency or switching to renewable energy) and carbon credits.
Carbon Trust Standard
This recognises organisations that take a best practice approach to measuring and managing environmental impacts.
On Pack Recyclable Label
Although this is a UK scheme, you will find these symbols on consumer products in Ireland and provide a standard consumer recycling label. Simple, consistent and evidence led, the label provides sufficient information to make it easy for consumers to recycle more packaging, more often.
Over 145 brands and retailers are using the label, which is endorsed by the UK Government and cited as best practice by Defra (the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK).