The History of the Labelling System and its Operating Bodies
The NF-Environnement Mark is a seal-of-approval program aimed at certifying products that have a lower negative impact on the environment compared to similar products on the market. Development of the label began in 1989. However, because of initial opposition from the industry, the program was not fully operational until 1992. Today France is one of the most active countries within the European Union in the field of eco-labeling. There is no legislation regarding eco-labeling in France.
The main administrative body for the NF-Environnement Mark is the AFNOR (Association Française de Normalisation) the standards institute of France. The NF-Environnement Mark eco-labeling system is run by the Environmental Labelling Committee (Comité Francois des Ecolabels, CFE), the main responsibility of which is the development of product group criteria. The CFE is made up of the representatives of industry, commerce, consumer and environmental groups, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Environment, the Academic Committee, the ADEM (Environment Protection and Energy Agency), and of the AFNOR.
In the NF-Environnement Mark system, AFNOR evaluates the applications, develops the product group criteria, signs the contract with the applicant, and inspects the use of the label. AFNOR also appoints the members of the Verifying Committee.
Development of new product categories
Anyone can propose new product categories. These proposals are evaluated by the Verifying Committee and submitted to the Environmental Labelling Committee, who then decides whether the proposed product categories for the eco-label are acceptable or not.
A preliminary environmental assessment of the proposed product category is carried out. The preliminary assessment is done by AFNOR with the participation of other interest groups. The Environmental Labelling Committee evaluates this preliminary assessment and suggests recommendation regarding the product category.
The draft product criteria, or as they are known, the "Réglement Technique" (Technical Rule), is developed by the Secretary of AFNOR, during which process it co-operates with the representatives of interested parties. Draft product criteria include all the specific guidelines (environmental, product performance, advertising, etc.) which manufacturers must meet to be awarded the NF-Environnement Mark.
Once finalised by the Committee and approved by the General Director of AFNOR, the criteria are published in the Journal Officiel, and applications for the NF-Environnement Mark are accepted. Product criteria are usually re-evaluated every three years, but may be re-evaluated sooner if there are new breakthroughs in technology relating to the product category.
Application and label use
An expert of AFNOR evaluates applications for the NF-Environnement Mark, and – in case it is needed – an outside expert is also involved in the evaluation process. Decision is made by that Director of AFNOR who is responsible for the directorate developing the given product criteria. In case the application is accepted, AFNOR signs the contract with the applicant, after which the applicant is entitled to use the NF-Environnement Mark on its products.
The manufacturer must pay a registration fee to cover the costs of processing the application. In addition, the manufacturer must pay the costs of verifying that the product conforms to the Technical Rules, as well as pay a site visit fee, an administration fee, and compliance test fees. In addition, an annual royalty payment (0.1 percent of product sales) is payable for the right to use the NF-Environnement logo.
If a manufacturer is found to be mis-using the NF-Environnement Mark, AFNOR may apply sanctions on the product and/or may withdraw the manufacturer’s rights to use the eco-label.