The History of the Labelling System
The "Blue Angel" Environmental Label is the oldest labelling for products and services related to environmental and consumer protection. By decision of the German federal government the "Blue Angel" was taken over from the UNEP symbol in 1972. The term "Blue Angel" is not the official name of the label. It is the name used in the vernacular to describe the blue female figure with her arms spread in the middle of the label.
The "Blue Angel" was first introduced in 1977 on the initiative of the Federal Minister of the Interior and the Ministers of the Environment of the Federal States. It considers itself as a market conform instrument of environmental policy designed to distinguish the positive environmental features of products and services on a voluntary basis.
The "Blue Angel" appears on the certified product or service itself or, for example, in the case of a service, on a showroom poster. The logo is made up of the following three integral parts:
- The United Nations environmental logo shows a blue female figure with her arms spread surrounded by a blue ring with a laurel wreath.
- A surrounding inscription reading "Environmental Label, because ….." points to the most important environmental features of the certified product or service.
- At the bottom of the round label reference is made to the independent Environmental Label Jury whose task is to decide on the award of the "Blue Angel" eco-label to certain product groups as well as on the criteria to be met, including the surrounding inscription.
The owner of the label is the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
Development of new product categories
Since the establishment of the system the number of certified products and services has greatly increased. Presently companies can apply for the label in 89 product groups. Product group criteria are usually valid for 3 years.
Anyone can propose new product categories. The evaluation of the new product group proposals, the development of product group criteria, the review of existing criteria is done by the Federal Environmental Agency, the Umweltbundesamt. Decisions on these matters are done by the Environmental Label Jury (Jury Umweltzeichen). The Environmental Label Jury is an independent decision-making body composed of experts representing environmental organisations and consumer associations, trade unions, industry, trade, crafts, local authorities, science, media, church and federal states.
Application and label use
Today, about 3800 products and services of some 710 label users in Germany and abroad are certified "Blue Angel" products. The environmental label can be obtained by all manufacturers or distributors – no matter whether their companies have their seats in Germany or abroad.
Application should be submitted to the German Institute for Quality Assurance and Certification (RAL Deutsches Institut für Gütesicherung und Kennzeichnung e.V.). The Federal Environmental Agency evaluates the applications and decides on the award. The RAL signs the contract with the applicant, after which the applicant is entitled to use the "Blue Angel" eco-label on its products.
The "Blue Angel" Environmental Label may only be used on the product itself or for directly advertising this particular product. Consequently, using the "Blue Angel" for advertising purposes must be strictly product-related. That means that the "Blue Angel" must neither be used to advertise the manufacturer as such, nor to advertise other products or the entire range of products of that particular manufacturer. The label can not be used on the manufacturer’s business papers (e.g. letterhead) either.
Normally, manufacturers are eligible for the use of the label, but in some cases, however, the distributors of the products can become label users as well.