Frequently asked questions about the Nordic Ecolabel

  • 1. How did it all start?
    The Nordic Swan Ecolabel was established in 1989 by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and is locally implemented by the governments of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. It is the official ecolabel in the Nordic countries. Today it is the world’s leading ecolabel with over 10,000 licensed products in the Nordic market. Just in Sweden alone, a total of over 60 product areas. In Sweden the company Ecolabelling Sweden has responsibility for criteria development, control visits, licensing and marketing. It controls the products and services as an independent third-party control organ. It is owned by the Swedish government.
  • 2. What is the purpose of the Nordic Swan Ecolabel?
    Unfortunately we do not live in a sustainable society. We consume too many things, we do not recycle, and we do not use enough renewable energy. Our vision is a sustainable society where future generations will have the same opportunities as we have today. To achieve this goal, our mission is to contribute to a sustainable consumerism. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel, commonly known in the Nordic countries as “the Swan” because of its symbol, is a practical tool to help companies make products that are more sustainable. Therefore it is important that more people buy Nordic Swan Ecolabelled products and companies sell more Nordic Swan Ecolabelled products and services.
  • 3. How is it financed?
    Ecolabelling Sweden receives funding from the government and through its licensing fees from companies, normally 0.3% of the annual turnover from the Nordic Swan Ecolabelled product. Its financial resources are used for the development of new criteria, control of products and services, and marketing. Ecolabelling Sweden is a non-profit company and has no branch affiliations.
  • 4. Who controls the Nordic Swan Ecolabel?
    The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is controlled in Sweden by the Swedish Ecolabelling Board consisting of members from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Grocers Federation, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, the Swedish Chemicals Agency, Friends of the Earth, The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, The Energy Agency, The Swedish Consumer Agency and the Swedish Consumers Association. The Swedish Ecolabelling Board also has responsibility for the EU Flower and products that apply for the EU Flower ecolabel. The Board further reports to the Swedish government on EU Flower criteria, who in turn decide on Sweden’s official position in EU Flower matters. The Nordic Ecolabelling Board consists of members from each national Ecolabelling Board and decides on Nordic criteria requirements for products and services. Criteria are applicable in all Nordic countries, and no country can develop its own criteria or product groups. When a product is granted a Nordic Swan Ecolabel in one Nordic country, the company can even apply, through a simple application procedure, for a Nordic Swan Ecolabel in the other Nordic countries.
  • 5. How well-known is the Nordic Swan Ecolabel?
    It is one of the most well-known trademark in Sweden with 96 % of Swedes both recognizing and understanding what it stands for.
  • 6. What can be Nordic Swan Ecolabelled?
    Today there are over 60 product and service criteria. Thousands of products and services, from detergents and car tires to hotels and restaurants can apply for the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
  • 7. How are product criteria areas chosen?
    We choose to work in the areas where we believe we can make a difference, in other words, choosing areas where we can achieve the highest environmental impact gains. We choose product areas from three perspectives. Relevance - is this an area with huge environmental problems? If it is, we look closer and investigate. Potential for environmental improvements - if we create criteria for this group, will it make an environmental difference and impact? Are these products used by many people is also a consideration we make. And lastly, can we steer the production of this product or the establishment of this service (for ex hotels, restaurants, car washes) so that by labelling this product we can achieve a better environmental production or establishment process? A total lifecycle perspective analysis is used for all products and services. Criteria are decided upon in an open process with experts from the business world, environmental organisations and authorities. Before the criteria are accepted by the Nordic Ecolabelling Board they are publicized for review and comments. The Nordic Ecolabelling Board makes the final decision on which Nordic criteria will be implemented in the Nordic countries.
  • 8. What kind of analysis is made? 
    We have criteria for the use of chemicals, the amounts of discharge to the air, water and ground that the product produces, as well as energy usage and waste procedures. We also investigate quality and functionality aspects of the product. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel can even be regarded as a climate ecolabel.
  • 9. Do the same criteria always apply?
    No, we revise our criteria for the different product groups on an average of every 3-4 years. Products must fulfil the new criteria and companies must re-apply for a license.
  • 10. How can a product or service be Ecolabelled?
    In order to receive a Nordic Swan Ecolabel license the product or service must meet criteria requirements from one of the 65 product criteria areas, and for the specific product group. A company can apply for a license and the application fee is 20 000 SEK. Applications can be found at www.ecolabel.se. Each company must provide, among other things, independent testing results and documentation for the specific product. A control visit will also be made. If approved, the product or service may carry the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
  • 11. Do these products have the same quality as non- Ecolabelled?
    Yes, Nordic Swan Ecolabelled products must be as good as equivalent products that do not carry the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. Products must meet certain quality and functionality requirements. A detergent for example, must clean clothes clean at low temperatures, furniture must pass durability tests and toner cassettes must print at the highest quality.
  • 12. What is the difference between the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel?
    The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is the official ecolabel for the Nordic countries and the EU Ecolabel is its EU equivalent. Both systems work in similar ways with a lifecycle perspective and continually review criteria. They are often synchronized. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel has more than 60 product areas and the EU Ecolabel more than 30 areas.
  • 13. Why are there so many ecolabelling systems?
    The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is the only official Ecolabel in the Nordic countries. There are other sustainable development marking systems that also are controlled by third-part organs. These are KRAV, the EU Ecolabel, the Falk (The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) and Fair Trade. Together we make a strong force for changing society to be more sustainable. In Germany there is the Blue Angel and in Japan the Ecomark.
  • 14. Why does the Nordic Swan Ecolabel have a swan as its trademark?
    The swan figure originated in the Nordic Council of Ministers symbol which was a white swan on a blue background. The swan, with its four wings, represents Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Denmark joined in 1992 and has no wing in this symbol. The Nordic Swan Ecolabel trademark was designed by the artist Kyösti Varis from Finland, who also made the Nordic Council of Ministers logotype.
  • 15. How many people work at Nordic Ecolabelling companies?
    The Nordic Swan Ecolabel is one of the leading ecolabelling companies in the world. The five Nordic Ecolabelling organisations have over 120 employees, in Sweden there are 55 employees.