Ecolabels, eco-labels and certifications - which labels can I trust? Which labels can I trust?

With so many building products, manufacturers and suppliers, eco-labels, eco-seals and certifications provide helpful guidance. Provided you know which ones you can trust. We present the most important variants and categorise how they should be understood.

Anyone who wants to build or rebuild, renovate or refurbish in Germany has an almost inexhaustible choice of building products, some of which are similar or only differ on closer inspection. Ecolabels, eco-labels and certifications can help. They serve to make the market more transparent and can provide users and consumers with guidance when selecting products.

However, there are now numerous different labels and certifications that provide various information on aspects such as health, environmental friendliness, social responsibility, processing quality and ingredients. Due to the abundance of information, it is not always easy to recognise the quality and meaning of the various labels.

The differences are important...

The biggest difference between the various labels and certifications lies in the certification process. In the case of reputable labels, certification is awarded following a transparent inspection of the products and/or manufacturing processes based on defined criteria. This testing is carried out by independent institutes that are not affiliated with either the licensor or the manufacturer. In some cases, the testing institute itself may be the licensor or issue certificates for certain product characteristics.

Certificates and labels become more meaningful if all test results are publicly available or can be easily provided on request. If all criteria are met, the manufacturer may use the label for a limited period of time and exclusively for the tested products. After the period of validity has expired, a new test is required.

...and the finer points

First of all, a distinction must be made between statutory and voluntary certifications. For example, the CE marking, which is generally known as a mark of conformity, is required by law in order to be able to place certain products on the market in the EU.

A distinction is made between three types of voluntary eco-labels:

  • Type I (externally tested) for products that meet certain environmental or health-related requirements
  • Type II (environmental supplier declaration) for product characteristics that are emphasised by self-declaration
  • Type III (independently verified) for the provision and comparison of environmental information on construction products

The eco-labels, eco-seals and Type I and Type III certifications, which focus differently on sustainability, healthy living and ecology, are particularly relevant for building or remodelling, renovating or refurbishing in the private sphere.

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