The Kastljós news analysis program which aired Monday night and revealed deplorable conditions at egg farms owned Brúnegg, has sparked discussion in Iceland about whether consumers can trust marketing labels.
The eggs produced by the company were marketed as eco-friendly and sold at a price 40 percent higher than other eggs in the market. A regulation was enacted in Iceland in 1998 regarding eco-friendly products, and at that time, an eco-friendly label was taken into use by certain producers. The case of Brúnegg, however, revealed that the users of that label have been subject to minimal inspection by authorities. The regulation was abolished last year.
Birgitta Stefánsdóttir, specialist at the Environment Agency of Iceland, calls the eco-friendly label a clear case of greenwashing, RÚV reports. The term refers to the practice of companies which claim to be green through advertising and marketing without living up to that standard. The word echoes the word whitewashing, which means to hide the faults or errors of.
Other words or labels are used to try to make a product look green, such as ‘environmentally friendly,’ ‘green’ and ‘natural.’ Birgitta emphasizes that consumers need to be aware that these words are simply statements hard to define or to verify the meaning of. The consumer must ask, for example, What makes natural nuts better than others? The consumer needs check whether the labels are accredited. The label ‘organically grown’ is, for example, legally protected.
In Birgitta’s view, eco-friendly farming is indeed traditional farming, and should have been a definition of minimal requirements in farming, instead of some sort of stage between traditional and organic farming.
“Nothing prohibits producers from using these labels, although they have no meaning. The problem is that the consumer doesn’t know.”
In Iceland, there is one certification office for organic products, called Tún. Its label on a product ensures that it is organic and produced in accordance with international standards for organic products.
For a list of accredited labels for organic products, please visit the website of the Environment Agency of Iceland.