Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is one of the most mature of eco-labels, originally conceived in 1990. The mission of the FSC is to “promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.” Though not without its flaws, FSC certification has become the benchmark stan dard by which sustainably managed timber (and more recently paper) is measured. The FSC provides an independent, third party process for establishing a traceable ‘chain-of- custody’ from forest floor to shop floor. FSC was developed by environmental and social justice organisations in concert with timber retailers and management companies. Forest certification schemes, like the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) which accredits the Australian Forest Certification Scheme (AFCS), were set up by the timber industry itself. FSC labelling covers three broad types of wood; 100 per cent, Recycled and Mixed Sources, (which contain at least 70 per cent FSC certified and recycled material.) Fees include FSC membership ($100 to $6,000) and costs to third part forest assessors.
The Environmental Certification Scheme (ECS) from the Australian Carpet Institute is an extension of their well established carpet classification scheme (ACCS), which grades car pets for their durability and appearance retention. Indeed, to earn recognition under the ECS, carpets have to already qualify for the ACCS. There are four levels of environmentally preferred carpet possible under the ECS, which was the first product certification standard to be recognised under the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA’s) Assessment Framework for Product Certification Schemes. Products certified for their environmental merit by a GBCA-recognised product certification standard can be rewarded in Green Star Material Calculators credits. Product certification standards from Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), EcoSpecifier and the Australasian Furnishing Research and Development Institute (AFRDI) also later qualified. Of the nearly 1,100 carpets currently certified under the Carpet Institute’s ECS, about 425 are certified to the GBCA-recognised levels. A product eligible for a 100 per cent item score in Green Star material calculators is identified as an ECS Level 4
Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA)
GECA is a third party certification body, independent of product and material suppliers. GECA, one of the first in Australia to offer a voluntary eco-label for building products, is a member of the Global Ecolabelling Network or GEN, an association which includes other well know international labels, such as the Nordic Swan, and the USA’s Green Seal. In sim ple terms, GECA establishes its own environmental best practice performance criteria, which go through a public review process, before becoming the benchmark standard, against which products are audited, by an at-arms-length assessor. After a decade of certi fication many GECA standards already exists, from adhesives, to insulation, through floor coverings, paints and panel board. If the product is deemed to have passed the environ ment standard it will be awarded GECA’s EcoLabel. Annual fees for licensing of the label vary from $500 to $40,000 depending on the submitting firm’s turnover. Five GECA Standards, for furniture and fittings, carpets, floor coverings and panel boards, are recog nised by the GBCA.
GreenTag is Ecospecifier’s new two part rating and certification system for green build ing products. One tier comprises a life cycle assessment (LCA) compared to what Ecospecifier term, “the worst case business as usual (BAU) product.” Products can earn a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum designation, when scored by the LCA methodology. This is derived from the Australian developed LCADesign software, a subset of which, LCADetail, Ecospecifier has obtained exclusive international rights to use for a green building product rating system. The second element of GreenTag, known as GreenRate v3.1 awards three levels of certification which are recognised by the GBCA.. A product eligible for 100 per cent of the credit points in the Green Star materials calcu lators is identified as GreenTag GreenRate Level A certified. Lesser credits equate to two lower levels. Hence there are 12 possible standards of GreenTag rating for a product. GreenTag Listings remain current for three years and involve a certification fee per product.
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme is a government-based labelling scheme that commenced five years ago, with the intent of reducing water usage in the midst of ongoing drought. The mandatory WELS label replaced the previous voluntary water conservation rating 'AAAAA' label, which had been endorsed by the Water Services Association of Australia. All Australian manufactured or imported products, specifically tapware, showers, toilets, urinals, clothes washers and dishwashers are required to carry the WELS label, which indicates to buyers the products water consumption and a water efficiency star rating (one to six). Even if the product doesn’t merit a star rating, under this national scheme, the product is legally required to bear a label showing it does not meet the WELS standard. WELS label registration, which costs $1,500 is valid for five years. Not complying with the labelling scheme could see a manufacturer paying fines up to $33,000.
The Australasian Furnishing Research and Development Institute (AFRDI) Green Tick applies to commercial furniture such as chairs, tables, workstations, storage, joinery and loose furniture. Green Tick certified furniture will only be assessed if they first pass Blue Tick accreditation for their strength, durability, ergonomic quali ties, and such like. Additionally, Green Tick auditing assesses not only the finished product, but also the production facility and its systems. It considers issues includ ing: design for disassembly, toxic and hazardous substances, chain of custody procedures for raw materials operational energy, water and waste, as well as transport and packaging and numerous other criteria. If compliant, a product will be awarded one of the three standards: Level A for ‘best practice’ though to Level C for ‘entry level.’ Certification is valid for three years, with costs including a licensing fee of $950 (inclusive of complimentary AFRDI associate membership), plus an extra product assessment fee. The Green Tick is also a GBCA-recognised standard. A product eligible for 100 per cent in Green Star material calculators is identified as a Green Tick Level A/Platinum certified.
The Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) operated by the Australian Window Association rates residential windows (and skylights) for their annual energy impact on Australian buildings. Window Manufacturers need to become members of WERS before their products can carry the WERS rating label. Additionally they’re also required to have their windows tested by an Australian Fenestration Rating Council (AFRC) accredited ratings agency, who can rate most window config urations via computer simulation. Like Environmental Choice, the cost of being certified by WERS is based on a sliding scale relative to a businesses yearly turnover, with membership fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to almost $16,000. The rating itself is a score between 0 - 10 stars, and shows both the heating and cool ing efficiency of the fenestration. All windows which obtain an accredited rating may be researched through a publicly accessible online database.
The previous seven eco-labels are merely the tip of an every expanding iceberg. There is, of course, Energy Rating for home appliances, and the companion label of the Gas Energy Rating, plus Energy Star for office equipment. And speaking of stars we’d be remiss not to mention the Green Building Council of Australia’s own Green Star rating system, which awards four, five and six star ratings for green building design and construction. In the middle of 2010 the Federal Government introduced their National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) as a successor to their previous Greenhouse Friendly ecolabel. NCOS allows businesses to certify their carbon emission offsets for individual products or business operations. The ‘Green Plumbers’ label from the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia (MPMSAA) identifies plumbers trained in the likes of solar hot water and water conservation. Similarly the Housing Industry Association’s (HIA) GreenSmart Professionals are those who have undergone a two day training course. GreenSmart also recognises buildings that adopt HIA’s eco principles. And the list goes on.