Part of the Grenelle law for the environment, the original proposals were for a mandatory labelling scheme to start from January 2011, where companies would label products with their carbon footprint as well as other characteristics such as water and energy use.
However, Chantal Jouanno (the then secretary of state for ecology) recently announced changes to the proposals and introduced the year long experiment scheme which will be active from July 2011, calling for volunteers to take part.
The year long test is designed to help inform how an environmental labelling scheme should be put in place in the future, helping to answer questions such as what should be communicated and how, how technically feasible it is and the cost of such a scheme.
Labelling gives companies incentive to reduce environmental impact
Giving consumers more information about the environmental impact of their products, from conception to delivery, could help change their behaviour, according to the minister for sustainable development.
The ministry also predicted that a future labelling scheme will become a question of competition between companies, inciting them to lower resource use and reduce environmental impacts.
Candidates are invited from all product sectors and have until December 31 2010 to apply to take part in the scheme, the only rule being that their products are commercially available in France. If accepted their products will have to display a number of environmental indicators on their packaging.
While the ministry has said there will be no financial support provided for those who take part in the scheme, there will be promotion of the participants via communication and a personalised support of participation.
The environmental values that will be published on the label will take into account both the product and its packaging.
With this in mind France’s trade association for plastic and flexible packaging, Elipso has told its members they need to be ready to be contacted by their customers for more information about their products’ environmental footprints.
However, Elipso did underline that a database of generic information is currently being put together by l’ADEME (the French energy and environment agency) so the extent to which suppliers would have to provide additional information was not yet known.