Seal of Approval
By Richard Romano
Published: July 10, 2012
“Consumers have reason to be very cynical about promises and claims. People are inundated with product claims that demand so much research,” said Miriam Arond, the director of Good Housekeeping Research Institute. “They’re hungry for guidance.” “We have taken this slow and steady,” she added, emphasizing the quality of certifications over their number. “Companies are frustrated. They’re making environmental advances, but it’s such a complicated story for them to tell consumers. For them, the Green Good Housekeeping Seal sends a simple, clear message.”As many in the Going Greenosphere point out, certifications and labels are best relied on with caution, but I think the legacy of the certifying organization should add some weight to the evaluation of a given eco-label. It is not unheard of for people to invent faux eco-labels, and then bestow them upon their own products. And sometimes a once-useful certification can be diluted so as to be virtually useless (such as the “organic” food label, as this New York Times article points out). So what does the Good Housekeeping Green Seal entail?
Products for the green seal program must go through a multi-step process. Once the Good Housekeeping Institute approves a product for advertising, it can then be submitted for a conventional seal of quality. If granted, the product can then apply for a separate Green Good Housekeeping Seal. At this stage, the product is put through a deeper evaluation based on life cycle assessment (LCA) practices. Detailed here, the process looks at a wide range of factors, from upstream variables such as raw materials, manufacturing, and supply chain, to down stream issues, including, packaging and product use.Ultimately, the goal of any eco-label or certification process should not only be to guide consumers to making sustainable choices, but also help manufacturers raise their own standards—and keep up with the current state of sustainability.
“What’s green today may not be a stand out two years ago," added [Arond]. “The standards will have to shift to raise the bar.”The key is to have an eco-label whose bestower has a positive reputation for reliability and credibility. That will encourage high-profile consumer products companies work with those standards (Procter & Gamble has had two of its products recently qualify for Good Housekeeping Green Seals), ideally setting in motion a chain reaction that will help bolster the efficacy of the eco-label, and improve the companies and products at the same time.