Who: The International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (“ISEAL”)
When: November 2014
Law stated as at: 8 January 2015
ISEAL is an NGO global membership association whose mission is “to strengthen sustainability standards for the benefit of people and the environment”. It has various Codes of Good Practice in place including the Impacts Code, the Standard-Setting Code and the Assurance Code.
New draft guidance has been developed by ISEAL relating to sustainability claims such as ecolabels, sustainability logos and statements such as “this product comes from ABC Certified sources” (the “Draft Guide”). ISEAL sets out its definition of a “sustainability claim” as being “a message used to set apart and promote a product, process, business or service with reference to one or more of the three pillars of sustainability – social, economical, and / or environmental”. Version 0.2 of the Draft Guide was published late last year together with a document from ISEAL which sets out a summary of the comments from the first draft and how they were dealt with in the second.
The Draft Guide sets out guidance for creating and using logo and word claims, including on the requirements for substantiation, trade mark considerations, and whether the claim is standard, certified or percentage based, for example. It covers both B2B and B2C claims and focuses particularly on claim “scheme owners”, discussing their need for legal protection and licensing of the scheme, reporting and enforcement. “Scheme owners” are standard-setting organisations and accreditation bodies which operate in sectors such as agriculture, biofuels and textiles and include Fairtrade International and the Forest Stewardship Council.
One example of a guidance point is in relation to legal regulations considerations when setting up the claims scheme. The Draft Guide reminds scheme operators that their “users will expect that you have checked the legal permissions for claims in their proposed region” and so “you should identify the main countries where you expect for your claim to be made, and check whether there are any issues with your intended claims”. The Draft Guide highlights that there may be specific legal issues for different countries such as the use of the word “certifié” in France and the use of asterisks within the list of ingredients in Germany.
While the Draft Guide doesn’t require scheme owners to follow particular steps, it serves as a useful checklist. As stated in the Draft Guide, the approach taken is to “provide an understanding of the strategic decisions that need to be made, rather than being prescriptive about what those decisions should be”. Whether the final draft of the guidance will carry much weight as an authoritative guide remains to be seen.
Why this matters:
The Draft Guide mostly relates to scheme owners and what they should consider when establishing and putting in to practice a sustainability claim. However, as marketers are the ones who will need to consider whether they wish to use sustainability claims and whether they can substantiate such use, they may hold opinions on the principles set out in the Draft Guide.
Marketers who have comments should make their views known as the consultation on the current version of the Draft Guide is open until 30 January 2015.