Sustainable consumption: from Germany to the world?

In Germany, manufacturers and retailers have long since discovered the brand potential of the environment. Sustainability criteria and labelling nowadays also form part of consumer decisions. Policy is also generating initiatives and setting requirements, e.g. the incandescent light bulb ban and the EU’s energy efficiency regulations for vacuum cleaners.

Such awareness is still in its infancy in developing countries. The demand for energy and resources is great, particularly in regions with rapidly growing economies and increasing consumption. This can be observed in the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) region, which is one of the most dynamic in the world. In 2010-2013 the economy of its ten member countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam) grew yearly by 4.9 to 7.9 percent, along with the energy demand. The figures for primary energy demand illustrate this: it almost doubled in the period from 2000 to 2011, rising from 273 to 549 million tons of oil equivalents. By comparison, primary energy consumption has decreased slightly in the EU-28 since 2000; in 2012 it amounted to 1,685 million tons of oil equivalents.

The high demand for energy and resources is combined with negative environmental impacts, of which climate change is just one example. In order to minimize these impacts, various approaches are needed. One of these is to place efficient and environmentally-friendly products on the global market. In various projects, researchers at Oeko-Institut are working on issues relating to sustainable consumption, the focus of which stretch beyond Germany, Europe and the developed world.

Asia: Criteria for green public procurement

Within the scope of their work, Oeko-Institut’s researchers are passing on their experience with the development of environmental criteria for products and services in Thailand and other ASEAN countries. The aim of an ongoing project that started in 2013, which is being funded under the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), is to promote green public procurement and to harmonize existing ecolabel criteria. Oeko-Institut’s previous work in this field includes various workshops in which the institute has – together with the relevant authorities and local experts – developed product-specific environmental criteria for green public procurement. In different workshops in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, criteria were discussed with relevant stakeholders for printer cartridges, fluorescent lamps, computers, paper, air conditioners and other products and approaches like life cycle costs (LCC) were tested for their suitability in the ASEAN region. Most recently, training on how to apply sustainable procurement in everyday life, which was tailored to different needs of the ASEAN member countries, took place in Thailand in October 2014.

From Germany to the world? “Blue Angel” as international ecolabel

Does the Blue Angel label also function internationally? This question was answered by Oeko-Institut in a study conducted together with lichtl Ethics & Brands GmbH on behalf of the BMUB. In cooperation with selected manufacturers, the international use of the Blue Angel tag "protecting the environment" was tested and evaluated. Within this scope, three pilot projects were carried out in the UK, India and Turkey. The study found that the Blue Angel label has the best chance of success in the business-to-business market and in public procurement. The researchers also concluded that the diffusion of the label in foreign markets will not happen automatically in the short term. A targeted internationalization strategy is needed to ensure the medium- to long-term success of the label in the foreign markets. This strategy should include mechanisms like the development of common core criteria (Common Core Criteria) with national ecolabels that have already been established internationally, followed by mutual recognition and mutual certification of the ecolabels in each case.

Film “Blue Angel goes international”

Presentation on the project “Strengthening the international use of Blue Angel as an ecolabel”

Goal: Bringing more environmentally-friendly products to the global market

Oeko-Institut’s work on sustainable procurement in the above-mentioned ASEAN countries shows that although there is an ecolabel (Type I) in almost all Member States (e.g. the "Green Label Thailand" and the "Indonesian Ecolabel"), only very few products carry such a label. One reason for this is that the costs and effort for manufacturers are too low compared to the profits. To make labels more attractive for manufacturers and thereby increase the production of environmentally-friendly products, Oeko-Institut recommends using a harmonization strategy. Such a strategy should simplify the labelling process and harmonize, for instance, the criteria for awarding the label.

At the same time, the local Blue Angel label is to find its way increasingly into Asian countries. In another study, which was commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency in January 2015, Oeko-Institut will – in cooperation with HEAT GmbH – continue to develop the Blue Angel label for room air conditioners. The economic, environmental and technological features of such devices in China, India, South Korea and Thailand shall be taken into account in the project. Its goal is to design the basis for awarding the label with the core criteria in such a way that it can be applied in Asian markets as well as in Germany.