Strenghtening sustainable consumption worldwide – the German Ecolabel Blue Angel goes international

A Shopper Pushes a Trolley along a Supermarket Aisle - Image has a Shallow Depth of Field

The German-based Der Blaue Engel ("Blue Angel") is the world’s first and oldest ecolabel for products and services. For almost 40 years, it has designated products that meet specific environmental criteria and are more environmentally friendly than other products with comparable performance. Its stringent criteria and the independence of the institutions that participate in awarding it make the Blue Angel one of the world’s most demanding environmental and climate certifications today. While the Blue Angel benefits internationally from the “Made in Germany” brand’s reputation for high quality, it is also regarded as a merely “national” ecolabel. In international marketing, it does not offer any added value to companies or any attractive arguments for buying a product to customers. The result of this is that products bearing Blue Angel certification currently have a limited presence in international markets.

Multiple studies have recommended that the Blue Angel work in cooperation with other ecolabel programmes in order to harmonise ecolabel criteria worldwide. In addition, the mutual recognition of programmes has been identified as a strategy for improving the international positioning of the Blue Angel. In the course of this project, the main challenges of this have been analysed by a consortium made up of adelphi, Bocconi University in Milan and the Öko-Institut Institute for Applied Ecology. Appropriate criteria for helping improve the tracking of raw materials chains and the handling of critical raw materials have been developed. Building on this, the project identified approaches to overcoming these challenges. The project supported to establish type 1 ecolabels worldwide, and in particular the Blue Angel labels, as a reliable source of information about the environmental benefits and impacts of products.

The results have been presented and discussed at two annual meetings of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN). adelphi was taking the lead on the content, concept and organisation of the GEN 2018 annual meeting in Germany. In particular, adelphi was responsible for organising the 40 year anniversary gala for the Blue Angel and the international conference "40 Years of Credible Environmental Labelling – Driving Smart Innovations towards Our Green Future".  adelphi is thereby supporting the networking of initiatives and relevant actors in the area of ecolabelling and contributing to an exchange on the research findings that have been gained. Furthermore, adelphi supported the development of a special issue on the future of ecolabelling in a scientific journal as co-editor.