What is Eco-Labeling?
Environmental performance evaluation is conducted by adopting a life
cycle analysis approach. Eco-labeling is a voluntary scheme for
certification of environmental performance of products. Eco labels, as
per International standard, ISO 14021:1999 are classified under three
• Type-I: A multi-criteria based programme which authorises use of
eco-labels on various product categories based on life cycle assessment
of its environmental impacts. The certification is done by an
• Type-II: Self environmental declarations made by companies in
association with their own products or services.
• Type-III: Labels are awarded based on quantified environmental data of
a product under pre-defined parameters set by a qualified third party
based on life cycle assessment. Verification of eco-label is done by
another qualified third party.
Why Eco-Label Building Materials?
Construction forms the back-bone of India’s economic development.
However, the environmental and resource footprint of this sector is very
high. Building materials made using industrial waste as one of the raw
materials such as fly ash cement, slag cement etc. have gained
popularity amongst producers and consumers in India as they have a
quality code developed by BIS and are also recognised and certified by
popular green building rating systems such as GRIHA and LEED. Apart from
fly ash and slag, there are numerous possibilities of using waste
materials from urban areas, industries and mines in building materials
without compromising on the quality of the building product. Urban waste
such as C&D waste has also gained attention. But due to lack of
eco-labels, the recyclers face problems in selling C&D waste based
products. Similarly, cement made with waste china clay has shown
reduction of 30% savings as compared to conventional cement without
compromising the quality. However due to lack of standards, commercial
production cannot be done by cement companies. Marble sludge from marble
cutting industry also has the potential to be reused in building
materials but faces similar issues of eco-labeling and standards.
The consumption of building materials is
largely driven by quality and certification. Hence for any eco-friendly
building material to be consumed by the industry, it should have either
of the two labels - Quality code or Eco-label by a qualified agency.
It’s needless to mention that government support is integral for
widespread use of eco-building products.
World Scenario of Eco-Labeling Building
In 1977, eco-labeling was first introduced in Germany through the Blue
Angel scheme. Canada’s Environmental Choice Programme, introduced in
1988 followed this and since then 26 countries/regions including India
have adopted the eco-labeling scheme under different names.
Eco-labeling Scheme in India
In 1991, India launched its own eco-labeling scheme called ‘Ecomark’.
Although the Ecomark is similar in many ways to ecolabels of other
countries, it differs from most in one important aspect. Whereas
eco-labels in most countries are awarded solely on the basis of
environmental considerations, in India, it is also linked with the
quality of products. In other words, in order to be eligible, products
must meet both environmental and quality criteria. However, the list of
17 products mentioned in the eco-marking scheme do not include cement,
concrete, bricks, tiles, pavers etc., which have shown the potential to
utilise waste materials and yet have maintained the desired quality as
per Indian quality standards. The only recognition for building
materials as ‘eco-friendly’ is given by GRIHA, under its product
catalog. It is the most popular product catalog accessed by builders,
architects and contractors to search for green building products.
Challenges in Eco-Labeling of Building
The Eco-Mark scheme has not picked up momentum and has not achieved the
desired results. This has been due to the following reasons:
1. Complex certification process
To certify the product as ‘green’, a manufacturer has to comply with the
criteria specified by CPCB and BIS. The grant of certification has taken
as long as 6 months in the past. The process constituted many
obligations such as consent from SPCBs, detailed list of manufacturing
equipment’s availablity, process flow chart of the product, layout plan
of the unit etc. making the eco-mark scheme unattractive to the
2. Lack of labs for testing desired
quality of eco building products
The eco-building products are required to go under testing for various
criteria of quality and environment as mentioned by GRIHA. Accredited
labs equipped to carry out the testing are not sufficient in number and
sometimes are not accessible to manufacturers in remote locations. There
is no single lab in the country, which carries out all the tests
required for Eco-labeling of products hence making the testing process
tiresome and costly for the manufacturers.
3. Limited product list
The 17 product categories defined initially under the eco mark scheme
have not been reviewed till date. Construction products, which have
shown potential to utilise waste are not included in the list. These
products have been well researched, tested against BIS standards and
manufactured commercially. Some of the examples are blended cements made
using fly ash, slag and china clay (mine waste), products made from
reuse of construction and demolition waste, fly ash bricks etc.
4. Cost of green products
Eco mark scheme misses one important criteria of product profitability.
Unless there is no minimum profit to the manufacturer, the manufacturing
of green products will not see large-scale production. The charges for
eco-mark paid by manufacturers include:
• Application fee along with cost of visit by BIS official
• Cost of product testing
• Marking fee
Eco-Mark is a fairly old scheme and therefore needs revamping.
The first step towards revamping the scheme
should be to make the certification process simple. It would be prudent
to establish a separate independent organisation to manage and oversee
the Eco-mark scheme. The composition of the organisation should include
representatives from the Industry, NGOs and think tank organisations
(with experts on LCA), BIS, CPCB and MoEF. The life cycle approach seems
to be a good way to assess a product’s environmental impact. However,
guidelines should be laid out on how to carry out the Life Cycle
Assessment of products and capacity building of manufacturers should be
built for these guidelines.
The product categories should also be
graduated to other products and sectors, which have a good potential to
consume waste and recycled materials. A good example to start will be
C&D waste based products. There are C&D waste management rules issued by
MoEF & CC for reuse of C&D waste. Production facilities exist in the
country, which use C&D waste as an aggregate to make pavers, bricks,
precast walls, park benches, drains, rain water-harvesting structures
etc. In spite of the quality being at par with similar finished products
made with virgin materials, they suffer market upscale due to lack of
eco labeling. However, before setting the environmental parameters for
such products for eco marking, institutional capacities to test these
parameters should be thoroughly surveyed.
In India there are more consumers who are
guided by the price criterion than elite consumers who are willing to
pay extra for green products. If the use of the Eco-mark on a product
would mean an increase in price, then it would adversely affect demand,
as consumers are price sensitive in India. This, in turn, would dampen
the implementation of the scheme. In a developing country like India
unless the price of environmentally benign products are at par or less
than their environmentally unfriendly alternatives, an average consumer
is unlikely to override his/her environmental concerns over economic
considerations. In light of this the government could overcome this
problem by either taxing environmentally unfriendly products or
providing tax-incentives and subsidies to Eco-marked products.
The marketing strategy of eco-mark scheme
has been driven more by voluntary awareness creating rather than
enforcement. The scheme should work hand in hand with local
municipalities to ensure use of eco products in public construction.
This can be done by making mandatory obligations for using Eco mark
products in tendering processes and preferential procurement policies
mandated by the state governments. The scheme can also be integrated
with green building certification systems such as GRIHA and LEED so as
to enhance the use of eco-labelled products in large and small
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