environmental certification

Green Seal of Approval: Harnessing the Power of Environmental Certification

An organization may decide to adopt, to integrate safety, quality and/or environmental criteria into its products or services, an approach allowing it, ultimately, to certify its products or services for sustainability. The certification of a product or service offered by an organization is proof that the product or service meets previously established specifications. The certification of a product or service results in the delivery of a label, which is a sign of identification of quality meeting a set of criteria defined in specifications and controlled by an independent third party organization and approved by the public authorities.

As official signs of recognition, we can cite ecolabels which attest to the environmental benefits of the products that carry them. Each country has its own procedures.

The NF Environnement mark certifies that the products on which it is affixed have a less negative impact on the environment, while guaranteeing a quality of fitness for use at least equivalent to that of other similar products on the market. It concerns both the product and its packaging. It is a voluntary brand, based on a multi-criteria ecological approach applying from the extraction of raw materials to the elimination of products after use. It applies to products intended for consumers as well as intermediate products. Pharmaceutical and agri-food products, services and the automotive sector are temporarily excluded from the scope.

Regarding the methods of evaluating the impacts of a product on the environment, the best known of which is life cycle analysis (study of the impacts of the acquisition of raw materials or the generation of natural resources to their elimination final product): ISO 14040 standards, ISO 14041 standards, ISO 14043 standards; the labels or certificates affixed to the product after such an evaluation:

  • ISO 14020: its objective is to present the principles to be applied for the development and use of an environmental marking or declaration
  • ISO 14021: it presents the vocabulary, assertion, symbol and graphic aspects linked to this type of declaration. It also provides a general evaluation and verification methodology
  • ISO 14024: it presents the recommendations for official ecolabels
  • ISO TR 14025: this ISO technical report presents the state of the art at the international level on type III labeling practices (quantified environmental information on the product life cycle, given by a supplier)

Do not confuse label and CE marking. The CE marking is not a mark of quality. It is a regulatory marking, mandatory for products covered by a European “New Approach” directive. It guarantees compliance with regulatory requirements in terms of safety and health and gives these products the right to circulate freely in America. The conditions for affixing the CE marking are defined in each directive and only involve the intervention of a third party for products presenting serious risks. As compliance with standards is not made compulsory under the “New Approach” directives, CE marking does not necessarily attest to compliance with European standards.

Quality management system

An organization that wishes to adopt a quality approach based on an existing framework generally turns to ISO 9000 standards because they are applicable to all sectors. There are other quality standards but they concern specific areas of activity and apply to control and testing laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals, clinics, public assistance, etc.

The ISO 9000 standards were developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a global federation of national standards bodies from some 140 countries whose mission is to promote trade in goods and services and to develop cooperation in the areas intellectual, scientific, technical and economic. These standards are presented in more detail below.

Quality management consists of coordinating the activities of a structure towards compliance with customer requirements and expectations. According to the approach defined by the ISO 9000 standards, it is first necessary to clearly identify these requirements and expectations and then define the objectives that the structure sets in terms of quality. The objectives are then deployed at the level of the structure’s various processes and monitored using quality indicators.

In order to embark on the path of continuous improvement, the structure monitors these quality indicators, analyzes the data, and carries out corrective and preventive actions. This approach is naturally accompanied by a formalization of processes (written procedures specifying what must be done) and a definition of organizational and technical interfaces (who does what).

Environmental management system

The certification of an environmental management system is based on two standards:

  • certain standards from the ISO 14000 series
  • the federal regulation

In both cases, the recommended environmental management system consists of the following steps:

  • first step: take stock of the situation and see what the impacts of an activity are on the environment, including regulatory compliance
  • second step: define a course of action with regard to this inventory (improvements to be made, means to be implemented)
  • third step: define the organizational, human, financial, legal and communication means that will make it possible to achieve these objectives
  • fourth and final step: set up a control and monitoring system, making it possible to avoid deviations or improve the system if there are changes in the organization or the activity carried out

The key to an environmental management system is to constantly ask yourself: is the state of the place always the same? Should we update it, adjust the policy and actions, revise the objectives? Environmental management is based on a logic of continuous improvement in order to constantly progress in achieving environmental performance.