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In his final post looking at the ‘Environmental Debate’, Max Adam, Sales and Marketing Director at RP Adam, looks at the Eco-Label, examining how different these eco-label products are to the traditional detergents most commonly used, and whether they are actually a credible alternative or not.

In business it is important to stand out from the crowd and develop a perceived uniqueness which appeals to the consumer over the competition. In good old fashioned sales-speak, it centres on generating features around which companies can provide real user benefits. We talk about innovation being an important driver in business, so where does the eco-label fit into this argument?

Product innovation for domestic cleaning products has been one of the leading lights in the retail sector over many decades, where changes in clothing fashion, lifestyle trends and social values have shaped what we see on the supermarket shelves.

By contrast, innovation in chemical products used in the professional arena has slowed over the last 30 years due mainly to legislative restrictions and the lack of financial might compared to what our retail counterparts have at their disposal. Where retailers talk of price the professional arena talks of cost.

On occasions, our pre-occupation with cost in the professional arena, not generally shared in retail-land, has prevented great ideas coming to fruition in what is generally perceived as a very conservative market. Innovation or progress has mainly centred around achieving better compliance standards, more technologically advanced dispensing equipment and more capable cleaning machines, rather than improving the ingredients themselves within cleaning products. This is probably why the emergence and sustained presence of the eco-chemical (versus the traditional chemical) has enjoyed such an amount

30 | Tomorrow’s Cleaning February 2016

of positive visibility, because ingredient innovation has been slow.

ECO-LABELLING Eco-labelling got its start in the 1980s with government consumer product certification programmes such as the Eco-Logo labelling system created by the Canadian government in 1988, and the Nordic Swan system which debuted in Northern Europe in 1989 along with Green Seal in the US, the country’s first environmental certification programme.

In 1992 the European Union launched the pan-European Eco-Label using a flower as its symbol. The EU Eco- Label is a voluntary scheme that covers a wide variety of products and services, including paper. It was established by the European Commission to encourage businesses to market products and services that are kinder to the environment.

A quarter of a century later, the professional cleaning chemicals industry has evolved considerably; and one could argue that it has pulled its socks up with regard to environmental responsibility. So are these types of schemes as relevant as they once were? According to the EU Eco-Label website there are more than 37,000 EU Eco-Label products available in the European market.

In itself, it seems like a pretty honourable scheme which has the planet at the heart of its existence, but as we have mentioned before, it doesn’t take long before the altruistic language is diluted and a commercial pitch is being made in the strongest possible terms – it should be noted it costs money to register each product and renewal fees are applicable too.

The EU Flower qualification criteria for cleaning products have, since their inception, placed great emphasis on restricting the use of certain ingredients, including those with higher hazard classifications, irrespective of scientific risk assessments which suggest that there is little evidence of a problem in the environment or to human health arising from the continued use of cleaning products containing some restricted ingredients.

The criteria have also tended to hinder rather than encourage the use of concentrates, which are of great benefit in making professional cleaning more sustainable. As a consequence, the label has remained controversial, and though many products currently on the market could comply with the criteria, especially in their diluted form, they have not been submitted for a label.

Quite unapologetically proponents of eco-labelling schemes declare that ‘most people in Europe want to buy environmentally friendly products’ and that (incredibly) ‘four out of five European consumers would like to buy more environmentally friendly products, provided they are

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