The History of the Labelling System
The Austrian eco-label has been developed by the Ministry of Land, Forestry, Environment Protection and Water Management (Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft – BMFLUW, in the following: Ministry) in 1990.
The label was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, of which both the coloured and the black and white versions are protected trademarks. The label symbolises the connection of earth, water, air and nature, where the Earth is situated in the middle that is covered with trees. The word ‘Umweltzeichen’ (environmental label) is written within the label.
Development of new product categories
- Due to Environmental Politics reasons, after the new product category proposals of companies and different organisations, the Ministry carries out a preliminary assessment for the development of new product categories.
- The draft is sent to the Eco-label Consulting Board (Beirat Umweltzeichen) for discussion and completion. The draft is then sent back to the Ministry, which decides which product categories should be developed in the next stage.
- The decision is assisted by the preliminary assessment, which should contain the following elements:
- Environmental aspects of the given products;
- Special product features (quantity, heterogeneity, production process, etc);
- Possible product groups;
- The level of environmental impact;
- The expected number of label users.
- The development of product groups is done with the help of the preliminary assessment in a designated consulting-board. The board is managed by the Consumer Information Association (Verein für Konsumenteninformation – VKI). The representatives of the given crafts, different environmental organisations, the Ministry and of the Environmental Office (Umweltbundesamt - UBA) assist the work of the board.
- During the development the EU’s product group criteria is used, and in certain cases the whole document is taken over from the EU system.
- After these, the product group criteria are submitted to the Eco-label Consulting Board and in case they are accepted the Ministry announces the new product criteria.
Application and label use
The applicant of the Austrian eco-label can be any natural person or corporation, supposing that its production or commercial area is situated within the European Union. Presently 44 product categories exist.
- The application form should be submitted to the Consumer Information Association (VKI). The applicant has to use the verification of licensed and independent test laboratories to inspect the applicant’s product or service.
Documents that have to be attached to the application:
- Name, address and production site of the applicant;
- A copy of the permit of operations;
- Name and description of the product;
- Description of the planned label use;
- Documents proving that the given product meets the environmental requirements of the country of origin;
- Expert opinion stating that the given product meets the product group criteria of the eco-label.
- If the product meets the required criteria, then the Ministry signs a one year eco-label utilisation contract with the applicant. The contract contains the rights and obligations of the label user with special emphasis on meeting criteria requirements and marketing conditions. In case of violation of the contract the Ministry could withhold the right of label use.
- The company pays the yearly fee for using the label to the Environment Management Technical Office (Technisches Büro Hauer Umweltwirtschaft – TBH). The fee is calculated based on the yearly sales of the labelled product:
For different crafts the Ministry can develop special rules. The Ministry considers the characteristics of the given product to develop the fee system.
The extension of the right of the label use can be initiated within 6 to 2 months before the expiration of the contract. If there is no change in the criteria, the Ministry extends the contract for one more year without further assessment. If the labelled product has been changed, than an expert opinion has to be asked for, for the verification that the product still meets the requirements. In every third year a new expert opinion has to prepared.
The meeting of the criteria is monitored by an independent organisation, which periodically carries out the inspections as well. In case the inspection reveals the mis-use of the label, the Ministry can apply sanctions on the product and/or may withdraw the manufacturer’s right to use the eco-label.
Reasons for the temporarily prohibition of the use of the label:
- the product or service does not meet the criteria;
- the documents in the application are unsound or false;
- the information in the application is false;
- miss-use of the label;
- a leeway in fee payment;
- the inspection is intentionally hindered or delayed.