Eco-labels will open new vistas of opportunity, says EC official

June 24, 2008, New Delhi
“EU eco-labels would provide Indian textile exporters new opportunities in the European market”, said Robert Donkers, First Counsellor of the European Commission (EC), dealing with environmental issues while addressing the two-day workshop on June 23-24, 2008, organised by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) and the Confederation of Indian Textiles Industries (CITI), in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at Country Inn and Suites, Jaipur. An eco-label is a certificate of environmental quality and the EU eco-label is one that is ratified by the EC.

The event marked the first opportunity for national stakeholders to get information on eco-labelling opportunities and was a part of a project entitled ‘Enabling developing countries to seize eco-label opportunities’ funded by the EU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The project aims at providing technical assistance and building capacity of a wide range of national stakeholders to increase market access in developed countries and promoting more sustainable consumption and production patterns. In India, it specifically aims at supporting Indian industries in attaining the EU Eco-label for their products.

The EU Eco-label also called the “EU Flower” was introduced by the EU in 1992 with the aim of providing more transparency and information to consumers about environmentally preferable products. It is a broader strategy of the EU to stimulate sustainable consumption and production. Till date, there have been around 620 licensed companies with approximately 4000 EU Flower labelled products with a market value approaching a billion Euros. The licences are spread over a number of European as well as developing countries, namely Thailand, China, Indonesia and Egypt. The workshop provided textile industry stakeholders with knowledge of the EU Eco-label, the criteria and procedures that underlie its award and related market opportunities.

Addressing the workshop Shishir Jaipuria, Vice Chairman, CITI, while pointing to the mounting pressure on the textile sector to adopt more “eco-friendly” manufacturing processes, underlined the importance of textile producers in India going in for such environmental certifications to retain their market position. He said that obtaining an eco-label can also generate financial savings through process optimization and reduced consumption of raw materials and improved environmental performance. Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS underlined the opportunities created by eco-labels as well as their potential misuse as non tariff barriers.

The presentations at the workshop highlighted that an increase in the market for home textiles and apparel in the EU, US and Japan is predicted due to the phasing out of production capacities in spinning and weaving in these countries. Since the EU Flower label is recognised by all EU countries, it makes market penetration easier, especially to major markets like Italy, UK, France, Germany and Spain. The workshop brought together relevant representatives of the textile industry and designers, textile associations, laboratories associated with textile manufacture, consumer and environmental organizations, EU and United Nations officials linked to the eco-label scheme, as well as academic experts and international industry representatives.
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