business news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning about the proliferation of services professing to provide environmental ratings – and the confusion they are creating.

According to the story, “As green marketing has proliferated, so has the number of ‘eco-labels’ competing to be the environmental equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. According to the Web site, there are more than 300 such labels putting a green stamp on everything from cosmetics and seafood to bird-friendly coffee.”

In addition to creating confusion by dint of the sheer volume, there is the additional problem that not all of the labeling services are reliable; some do not provide independent verification, and others will give a label for money with no questions asked.

And some people say that what is needed is a federal standard that will regulate what people can say about being environmentally friendly and how they can say it – along the lines of the federal organic standards now in effect.

"A growing number of consumers are interested in making informed choices about the environmental impacts of their purchases -- and I believe the federal government can help," Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) tells the Journal. "So, I am working with consumer advocates, manufacturers, distributors, and existing labeling and certification project leaders ... to create an accredited national eco-label program."

KC's View:
While at the moment I sort of hate to see the federal government multi-tasking anymore than it already is, it seems both logical and inevitable that some sort of standard needs to be established here. I just hope they can do with a maximum of speed and common sense, and a minimum of lobbying and political interference.

Which seems unlikely. But one can hope.