Environmental challenges follow an exponentially upward course in line with the rise in production and consumption. The word limitation has no place in the ever-globalizing world. Environmental challenges do not know any bounds and pose a threat to all of mankind and all creatures by means of interaction.
The global population, which stood at 1 billion in the 19th century, currently numbers over 7 billion. It is not going to be easy to respond to the needs of the global population. This is because our resources are limited.
The rural population had outnumbered the urban population at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the cities grew. They began to offer a comfortable life. This led to migration from rural to urban settlements.
Environmental challenges started to get out of hand upon the advent of urbanization. Industrial-based production and consumption habits did sprout up in metropolitan areas to go on with life.
This has put more pressure on environmental and natural resources. Major problems such as air pollution, clean water supply, climate change and waste have burst into sight more often.
Health comes first
All the aforementioned challenges wait to be eliminated as they pound at our door. As the creators of these challenges, we have to transform our modes of production and consumption.
In fact, we have begun to do so. As environmental challenges become so visible, we have taken our own measures. We have become selective in many aspects ranging from the clothes and toys we buy to the foods that we eat.
We do not drink all types of water or swim just anywhere. We do not wear all types of clothes or consume all types of food. We are concerned. We would like to be informed of their origin. We raise many questions such as what material these products are made of, whether any potentially harmful chemicals were put to use for their production, or whether they are genetically modified products.
We tend to be quite selective when it comes to vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and those with a particular ailment.
So, do we care about nature and environmental health as much as we do about ourselves and our own health?
Do we wonder about how much water or energy goes into the manufacturing of a dress as much as we do about whether it is allergenic? Where does that energy originate from? How much oil or coal is extracted for it? How much of it is put to use? How many creatures have been displaced? After all, there is a myriad of creatures living in the soil.
To what extent is air polluted? What chemicals have been used? What coloring agents went into it? How much of it went into water supplies? You see: The list of questions goes on and on. We have to raise these questions. Raising them will help us look to the future with more confidence. It will help us become more hopeful for the future. We will be able to hand down potable water, clean air and soil to our children.
To do so, we have to transform our habits. We have to adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Being environmentally friendly means adapting to the environment. You have to give back what you take from Mother Nature.
We buy a product. It comes with a great deal of information on it such as ingredients, an expiration date, warnings, and some signs to indicate whether there are any hazardous chemicals in it. Now there is a new label: It is called the ecolabel. It is a label to indicate that no environmental damage has been done for the production or it has been minimal. It is a scheme to indicate a minimal amount of water used, efficient use of energy and resources and recovery of products once they become waste.
It is a new system for Turkey whereas it has been in force for years around the world. It is called the eco-label system.
This is not the first time
Labeling has been used by many industries as a way to indicate that a product is safe. One of these labeling systems is halal certification.
The intention was to show informed consumers that services or products they are provided can set their minds at ease as to their quality. For instance, if you are going to buy meat, the label tells you that the way it was raised and fed, as well as the water and other products that went into it, are all in accordance with Islamic rules.
Halal certification is now an assurance for Islamic communities to buy halal products and services around the world. It is a major industry with a global trade volume amounting to nearly $4.2 billion.
In 2017, the Halal Accreditation Agency was founded in an effort to raise awareness about the halal food system, which is quite popular in Turkey, and to designate guides to lead the market.
An indicator for the seaside
Blue Flag is another labeling system that we are familiar with in Turkey.
In today's world, most consumers go on vacation in consideration of Blue Flag beaches. Originally introduced in 1985 in France as a national practice, the system is an important indicator of how clean a beach is.
Turkey ranks third in the world for the number of Blue Flag beaches. Based on the statements of accommodation operators, the Blue Flag is one of the major parameters to attract international tourists. Accommodation facilities that have access to a Blue Flag beach play a significant role in the promotion of a country.
Awarded to accommodation facilities, the Green Star is one of the sought-after marks for environmentally conscious consumers. Operators who take measures to be environmentally friendly are likely to attract the interest of tourists thanks to such labeling methods. It creates a domino effect in green markets and plays a critical role in the green operations of other service providers.
It is safe to say that the concept of the ecolabel was coined in 1978 by the Blue Angel in Germany, which has grown into one of the top global powers thanks to intense and rapid industrialization and the rampant use of resources.
The United Nations took a supportive step in 1992, and officially adopted the label on the sidelines of the U.N. Conference on Environment & Development as it was described as "promotion of environmental labeling and other environmental product information schemes designed to help consumers make informed choices." The European Union signed it into law in 2010 under the title of EU Eco-label Regulation.
GEN, the global eco-labeling network that operates all over the globe, reports that there are 27 countries with an eco-label scheme and 430 labeling practices. Some of the eco-labels in effect include Blue Angel in Germany, EcoLabel in the EU, NordicSwan in Nordic countries, Green Sticker in the United States, ABNT in Africa and Brazil, and CEC in China.
Based on the statistics released in 2018, there are 2,091 companies and 70,099 products and services with an eco-label in the global market. The industries with the highest number of eco-labels are dyes and varnishes, toilet paper and paper towel products, and coating products.
In Turkey, the initiative entered into force initially for three industries – paper, ceramics and textiles – upon the release of a regulation in the Official Gazette No. 30570 on Oct. 19, 2018. The efforts to set labeling criteria for tourism operators are in progress as a part of the service industry.
Risk management, cost advantage, reputation and prestige are considered fundamental elements for a corporate entity to do business in global markets. Each of these elements has to do with labeling systems.
It is evident that investment in labeling is the smartest choice to export goods in markets where consumers tend to go for environmentally friendly products or to get more shares in those markets through eco-labeling, one of the methods adopted by businesses to raise environmental standards.
Producers who think that products are more affordable if environmental costs are not added will realize that those costs do not make businesses sustainable in the long run.
In 2014, when 19,920 pairs of shoes had been imported from China but denied entry on grounds of their carcinogenic content, the Ministry of Customs and Trade decided to destroy the products. Those who released the products in the market without any respect for environmental and human health for the sake of low cost and high profitability made a miscalculation.
Life cycle assessment
In the most accurate sense, eco-labeling is a globally acknowledged certification system to define environmental performance based on life cycle assessment.
Based on voluntariness, the system serves as an instrument to help product and service providers set their environmental considerations and certify that their products and services do not have any adverse effect on any ecosystem and human health. As a set of environmental performance criteria, it is all about the use of energy and water along with waste management, renewable resources and materials.
The ever-growing population and the upward trend in parameters such as development indicators entail sustainable economic growth in line with environmental indicators.
Market surveys suggest that environmental awareness increases consumer-oriented pressure as a result of informed consumption. Just like manufacturers are accountable for environmentally friendly modes of manufacturing, we in our capacity as consumers have to be more selective when it comes to consumption habits.
An eco-label is intended to inform consumers about products with minimal impact on the environment.
The adoption of this instrument will provide manufacturers with an upper hand to move ahead of competitors from the competition standpoint in global markets that know no bounds.
When it comes to environmental labeling schemes, some factors such as environmentally friendly modes of manufacturing, management of energy consumption and use of recyclable or recoverable materials are now motives for purchase as informed consumption is becoming more popular.
Offering guidance to the market in consideration of the aforementioned factors while striking a supply-demand balance is going to be achieved through public-private partnerships.
Awareness of being aware
The policy to spread the use of eco-labeling practices as set out in the chapter on the environment in the 11th Development Plan will improve global market conditions to boost competition and efficiency and play a more influential role in exports.
In the same vein, the 2023 Export Strategy and Action Plan's vision is to make sure Turkey exports goods worth $500 billion by 2023 and ranks among the world's top 10 economies. The action plan also designates the number of products to have an eco-label as 250 by 2023 in Turkey as a part of the strategic goal to adapt the export structure to obligations for environmentally friendly and sustainable growth.
So, what is the role to be played by the public sector?
The fact that the level of confidence in eco-labeled products and services is high in Europe and an eco-label certificate is a requirement for procurement shows how critically important the certificate is in order to be a preferred exporter.
Given the fact that public procurement makes up 16% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU, green public procurement provides more savings thanks to the life cycle cost concept.
Manufacturers make a positive contribution to their businesses once they opt for eco-labeling, in that companies gain the opportunity to analyze the environmental impact of products and services in the eco-labeling process. It is obvious that businesses will enjoy significant advantages in the long run for their items of cost as they identify inefficient practices in energy and water consumption, and poor choices in the selection of raw materials, and go on to take measures accordingly.
Consumers will have a chance to make a choice, being informed of the impact of products on the environment and human health.
Local companies will be able to break into green markets with their own brands, cement their reputation and create high added value for the growth of the Turkish economy.
This creates an opportunity for consumers to make environmentally friendly and informed decisions. This also mitigates environmental effects that may arise out of manufacturing, usage and disposal practices, and helps to realize continuous environmental development potential through increasing demand for products and services with minimal environmental effects and promotion of their supply.
* Deputy minister at the Republic of Turkey's Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, chief climate change envoy
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.