Daily WellnessFeb 2, 2022
The 12 Ecolabels You See All the Time, Explained
You’ve likely seen logos, certifications, stickers and seals all over your favorite products (even ours). But, do you know what they stand for — and whether they mean something — or do you wonder if they are just greenwashing?
From Certified Organic to Salmon-Safe, we are proud to tell you what we stand for. But, we also know that it can be confusing to keep all of these labels and stickers straight.
In this article we’re explaining 12 of the ecolabels you’ll see on our products and others, so that you can make an informed choice each time you shop.
What are ecolabels & green stickers?
Ecolabels and green stickers are two types of labeling systems used in the United States for food and consumer goods products, including herbal extracts. Ecolabels are voluntary, meaning that no manufacturer is legally obligated to include them.
However, green stickers are required by law. You might see a green sticker in the form of an Energy Star seal on your refrigerator. They are also found on cars and are usually related to energy efficiency or emissions.
While not legally mandated, ecolabels come with their own set of rules. The logos, labels and “stickers” you see on our products and website are types of ecolabels.
In most cases, businesses have to be approved to use the label — they must prove they meet certain standards, carry specific certifications, pass inspections or audits (in some cases) and pay a fee. Keep in mind that, since these labels are not legally required, their omission from a product doesn’t always mean that it contains GMO ingredients or was grown using conventional methods, for example. Sometimes, companies choose not to pay the certification fees but still maintain organic or regenerative standards. That’s why it’s important to choose brands that are transparent and ask questions if you are concerned.
We’ve chosen to participate in specific ecolabel programs to help guide our mission to make the world a better place than we found it. To meet these standards, we work with like-minded organizations to deepen our knowledge of sustainable, ethical business practices that help plants, people and the planet.
12 Product Certifications, Defined
USDA Certified Organic
This federal regulatory program develops and maintains national standards for organically produced agricultural products. The government program offers accreditation to private companies — like Oregon Tilth and Organic Certifiers, who do our inspections — and helps train their inspectors to certify that farms and businesses like ours meet organic standards.
To qualify, a business must use 95% or more Certified Organic ingredients (excluding water), grown or raised without using conventional pesticides and fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, radiation or genetic engineering and produced in a Certified Organic facility. (This also means GMOs are banned in organic foods.)
Where you’ll find it: On agricultural products (and Herb Pharm bottles)
Oregon Tilth is a well-known certifier, educator and advocate for organic agriculture and products. They are among the accredited companies that can issue Certified Organic labels to businesses.
If you see the Oregon Tilth certification on a product, you’ll know that the business or product uses 95% or more Certified Organic ingredients. (See USDA Certified Organic above.)
Where you’ll find it: On agricultural products
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
Certified B Corporations achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment — a rigorous assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community, and environment — and make their B Impact Report transparent. Certified B Corporations also amend their legal governing documents to require their board of directors to balance profit and purpose. We have been a Certified B Corp since 2018.
Where you’ll find it: All types of businesses, including Herb Pharm
Certified Naturally Grown
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities by working in harmony with nature, without relying on synthetic chemicals or GMOs.
CNG standards are based on the highest ideals of the organic movement. The group’s approach is based on transparency, and they require a full commitment to organic practices. So far, 750 farmers and counting have joined the movement.
To become Certified Naturally Grown, farmers must not use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers or GMOs. CNG livestock have to be raised mostly on pasture and with space for freedom of movement.
Where you’ll find it: On agricultural products
Non-GMO Project Verified
The Non-GMO Project offers a third-party non-GMO verification program. Businesses work with the Non-GMO Project and an independent technical administrator to provide unbiased product evaluations. The products are tested to ensure they are “produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance,” and they are tested for all GMO risk ingredients. (The testing threshold is 0.9%.)
Non-GMO means a product was produced without genetic engineering and its ingredients are not derived from GMOs.
You may see the Non-GMO Project symbol on both conventional and organic products, but GMOs are banned in all organic products (even those that do not carry the Non-GMO Project sticker). So, although the Non-GMO Project is the best-known ecolabel aimed at identifying non-GMO foods, it is not the only program that certifies a product is free from genetically modified ingredients.
Where you’ll find it: On agricultural products
Salmon-Safe keeps urban and agricultural watersheds in the Pacific Northwest clean enough for native salmon to spawn and thrive. Salmon-Safe offers peer-reviewed certification to farmers, vineyards, urban developers, builders and land managers.
To qualify for the certification, the applicant must be independently verified, to ensure they uphold environmental practices that protect water quality and habitat. These practices include things like limiting pesticide use, improving irrigation systems to avoid runoff and planting trees alongside waterways.
If a product or business carries the Salmon-Safe certification, you’ll know that they adhere to sustainable ecological practices that protect water quality and wildlife habitat.
Where you’ll find it: On farms, vineyards, building developments, school campuses and even golf courses across the Pacific Northwest region
Rainforest Alliance Certified
A Rainforest Alliance Certified seal indicates that a farm, forest or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet environmental, social and economic sustainability standards. RSA is an international nonprofit working in Latin America, Asia and Africa that encompasses social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability. Farms are not required to be organic but do need to meet other standards (an internationally recognized integrated pest management model that allows for some limited, strictly controlled uses of agrochemicals).
If a product or company carries this label, you’ll know they are committed to sustainable practices that protect rainforests — which are invaluable in the fight against climate change.
Where you’ll find it: On agricultural products that are grown in areas that impact rainforests
Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. They have three labels:
- FSC 100%: wood within the product comes entirely from FSC-certified, well-managed forests.
- FSC Recycled: the wood or paper in the product comes from reclaimed or re-used material.
- FSC Mix: the wood within the product is from FSC-certified forests, recycled material or controlled wood.
To earn an FSC label, companies must agree to comply with appropriate laws and treaties, respect the rights of indigenous people and minimize the impact of logging and other environmental concerns (among other principles).
Where you’ll find it: On paper and wood products
The Leaping Bunny Program is a cruelty-free certification for personal care and household products companies and signifies no animal testing. Cosmetic, personal care and/or household product companies make voluntary pledges to stop animal testing in all stages of product development. The company's ingredient suppliers make the same pledge, so a product is guaranteed to be 100% free of new animal testing. All Leaping Bunny companies must be open to independent audits, and commitments are renewed on an annual basis.
Where you’ll find it: On cosmetic, personal care and/or household products
Fair Trade certifications
You may see one of a few common fair trade certifications on products: Fair Trade Certified, Fair for Life and FairWild. Fair trade is not specific to one organization. It is a global movement that aims to build more equitable and transparent trade models between businesses in developed nations and growers or suppliers in developing ones. According to Fair for Life, “fair trade improves the livelihood of thousands of smallholder farmers and workers by providing the means for social community projects and empowerment of people.”
Fair Trade Certified
This seal — from Fair Trade USA based in Oakland, California — means that a product was made according to the group’s rigorous social, environmental and economic Fair Trade standards. Certified businesses ensure that all farmers and workers earn additional money to “empower and uplift their communities.” Such products may have met either Fair Trade USA standards or Fairtrade International standards, depending on where they are based and what makes sense for their business.
Fair Trade products may or may not be Certified Organic (though more than half of all imported Fair Trade Certified products are also organic), but Fair Trade standards always prohibit the use of GMOs.
Fair for Life
Fair for Life Certification is another fair trade certifier, with headquarters in France. Their seal “assures that human rights are safeguarded at any stage of production, workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and smallholder farmers receive a fair share.”
Fair for Life offer two types of certifications:
- The For Life Standard: “Corporate Social Responsibility” certification
- The Fair for Life Standard: “Fair Trade and Responsible supply-chains” certification
Based in the United Kingdom, FairWild is another group offering fair trade certification. They are committed specifically to “a fair and sustainable future for wild plant resources and people.”
Under the leadership of conservationists and wild plant experts, FairWild has worked for sustainable, traceable and ethical trade in wild plant ingredients since 2008. The FairWild Standard identified and filled a gap in the marketplace. Most fair trade certifications focus on cultivated plants; FairWild looks out for wild ones, as well as those who collect or tend herbs, fungi, lichens and other plant materials.
In addition, a business might source “fair-trade” raw materials or ingredients from a supplier or farmer who is certified by one of these groups, but if the business itself has not also been certified, they cannot call out those ingredients as “fair trade” on their labels or in marketing materials.
Where you’ll find it: On food products (including coffee, chocolate and produce), beauty and personal-care products, clothing, home goods and seafood