Improving eco-labels: are green certification marks up to the task?
This article reviews how certification marks and ordinary trade marks can act as eco-labels, that is, signs of environmental preferability or conformity to an environmental standard. It specifically considers the purported benefits of green certification marks over ordinary trade marks to function as eco-labels and the limitations of green certification marks.
While certification marks are governed differently than ordinary trade marks in the UK and European Union and thus possess some unique attributes, the way green certification marks function in the market departs from expected legal norms. Contrary to conventional thinking, consumers may rely on the brand image associated with a green certification mark rather than the standards underlying them. The role of brands in the green certification mark context—and the certification mark context more generally—has yet to be given significant consideration in the trade mark law literature.
The impact of brand development for green certification marks is also discussed. Brands may play a key role in facilitating consumer trust, and therefore reliance, regarding a green certification mark. Consumer trust is central in enabling green certification marks to work as agents of change in the marketplace and as one aspect of addressing the ongoing climate crisis.