Summary

Nordic Swan, also known as the ‘Nordic Ecolabel’, is a voluntary ecolabelling system that evaluates a product’s impact on the environment throughout the whole lifecycle, looking at energy and water usage, the kinds of chemicals used, recycling and reuse of waste products.

Nordic Swan is a Type 1 ecolabel and was developed by the Nordic Council of Ministers. It was initiated as a practical tool for consumers to help them actively choose environmentally sound products and is the official ecolabel for the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland), with the EU Eco-label Flower as its EU equivalent.

Governance

Nordic Swan was introduced in 1989 by the Nordic Council of Ministers. It is managed by the Nordic Ecolabelling Board, a non-profit organisation. The Nordic Ecolabelling Board is also a member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), which is an association of ecolabelling organisations worldwide.

Each Nordic country has a local office that is responsible for criteria development, site visits, licensing and marketing. Despite working independently, they meet twice a year for common communications.

The Nordic Swan label is administered by:

The Board receives some government funding while most support is provided by companies through their annual license fees.

Scope

Nordic Swan is a consumer-oriented label, currently covering 63 different product and service groups, ranging from cleaning products to restaurants. Nordic Swan develops specific criteria for each product group using a life cycle analysis method (LCA). This happens alongside inputs from stakeholders and experts. The criteria are reviewed every 3-4 years.

Product groups related to the textile industry include finished products, such as clothing, accessories and interior textiles (that consist of at least 90% by weight of textile fibres), as well as ingredients, such as fibre, yarn and fabric intended for use in a finished product.

The label is intended for the manufacturer of a product, although a distributor in a Nordic country may also apply for a license, as long as the manufacturer also agrees to the required criteria.

Market Acceptance

The Nordic Swan applies to Scandinavian countries, which includes Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The EU Flower label is the equivalent standard that applies to other EU countries.

The Nordic Swan applies to 63 different product groups, ranging from services such as restaurants, to products such as clothes and fabrics.

There are approximately 1500 certified manufacturers within all the product groups.

View a full list of companies licensed here.

Criteria

Criteria documents exist for each product group, listing requirements based on environmentally relevant aspects of the life cycle of a product, such as energy, water and chemical use, source of raw materials, hazardous effluents, packaging and waste.

This document will look at criteria related to the product group ‘Textiles, skins and leather’, which is the product group most relevant to the textile and fashion industry. The criteria listed (under sections ‘Environmental Requirements’, ‘Ethical Requirements’ and ‘Appendixes’ in Version 4.0, 12 December 2012 – 31 December 2016) apply to the entire production process, from the production of fibres to the final textile product,  and mainly concern fibres, environmental requirements, ethical requirements, quality and function.

  •  Criteria exist for a range of fibres including cotton, wool, flax and polyester. Fibres that constitute less than 5% of the weight of the product are exempt from the criteria. Recycled fibres also do not need to fulfil the requirements for fibres.
  •  All requirements in the criteria must be fulfilled, however many of the criteria have been harmonized with the EU-Ecolabel criteria for textiles. Some products with valid GOTS certificates might also be exempt from the requirements at certain conditions.
Energy Consumption

The standard requires the licensing applicant to submit data on the consumption of electricity and fuel for each wet treatment process; the data should also include the volume of textiles treated in each process.

Water Consumption

The applicant is required to submit the water consumption of each wet processing step along with the volume of textiles treated in the same processes.

Water Emissions

Water emission requirements are covered under the criteria for respective fibres and processes. This covers COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) discharges (with different restrictions depending on the fibre and wet processing site), zinc and copper pollution to water, VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions and impurities resulting from dyes and pigments (from such as metal complex dyes). Wet processing sites are also required to have at least 95% (by weight) of detergents, fabric softeners and complexing agents used to be sufficiently degradable or eliminable in waste water treatment plants.

Water emissions are also addressed under criteria specifically related to textiles, which state that wastewater released after processing must not contain more than a total of 20g/kg fibre.

The pH value of the waste water released into surface water shall be 6-9 and the temperature shall be below 40 °C.

Water emissions are also addressed under criteria specifically related to leather tanneries, which state that wastewater released after processing must not contain more than 1 mg chromium (III) per litre and must be treated either in the tannery’s treatment plant or in a municipal treatment plant, so that the COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) does not exceed 10 kg / tonne raw material (raw hides or skins).

Chemicals (Accepted/Restricted)

The standard limits certain chemicals found in fibres and used in certain wet processing stages. For a detailed list of chemicals and their limitations, please refer to the appropriate heading in the annex section of the criteria.

Certain chemicals are also prohibited by the standard, including chemicals found in fibres, such as organotin compounds that can be found in elastane (Appendix 7), and chemicals used in special production steps such as azo dyes in dyeing, alkylphenol ethoxylates in coatings and formaldehyde in glues. Furthermore, certain processes are prohibited, such as chrome mordant dyeing and plastisole-based printing. The Nordic Ecolabel also prohibits any flame retardants, nanoparticles, perfumes or antibacterial compounds from being used in products.

Chemicals (Chemical Management)

Auxiliaries and finishing agents for fibres and yarns must be managed:

  • An overview of all chemicals used in the different processes after fibre manufacture should be submitted, specifying which chemicals are used in which process.
  • At least 95 % (by dry weight) of the component substances of any sizing preparation applied to yarns must be sufficiently biodegradable, eliminable in wastewater treatment plants or must be recycled.
  • At least 90% (by dry weight) of the component substances of primary spinning, spinning solution additives and spinning additives must be sufficiently biodegradable or eliminable in wastewater treatment plants.
Chemicals (Consumer Safety)

Products must not contain more than 20ppm of free and partly hydrolysable formaldehyde in the final fabric.

Air Emissions

The standard stipulates restrictions to air emissions that are related to fibres including acrylic, elastane, viscose and polyamide, such as acrylonitrile emissions that take place during polymerisation and spinning of acrylic fibre.

The ‘processes and chemicals’ criteria also states that any printing pastes used must not contain more than 5% VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).

Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational health and safety is addressed by the standard through the requirement that the applicant must have a Code of Conduct.

The standard also requires the licence holder to ensure the product and production of the product meets any statutes and regulations regarding the working environment that exist in the country of the production in question.

Management System (Record Keeping)

The manufacturers holding a Nordic Swan licence must themselves (or through their distributors/importers) show by means of documented procedures and instructions how required criteria are met.

Management System (Responsibilities/Roles)

The licence holder must allocate a person within the organisation who is responsible for maintaining contact with the Nordic Swan ecolabeling organisation.

Management System (Trainings)

Nordic Swan encourages the license holder to train the relevant people who work with the Swan labelled products.

Environmental Policy

The Nordic Swan standard covers a range of criteria under its ‘Environmental Requirements’, many of which fall under chemical, energy and water use.  Additional criteria are found for each type of fibre but the standard does not include any Environmental Policy.

The standard also requires the licence holder to ensure the product and production of the product meets any statutes and regulations regarding the environment that exist in the country of the production in question.

Social Responsibility

The licence holder of the standard is obligated to publish a Code of Conduct, which stipulates that ethical condition requirements concerning the applicable laws and provisions as well as the ILO Conventions are followed. These include but are not limited to:

  • child labour
  • forced labour
  • health and safety
  • freedom of association and right to collective bargaining
  • discrimination
  • discipline
  • working hours
  • compensation

The license holder shall have routines for making sure that both regulations and the rights of the ILO Convention are adhered to. This publication needs to be documented, either publicly on a website or via a SA8000 certification.

Others

The standard stipulates that a high quality of product must be produced, and addresses several quality issues under its criteria. Requirements include:

  • Dimension changes above a certain percentage depending on fibre (as listed under R69) during washing or drying are not allowed.
  • Furniture fabrics are required to have a pilling resistance equivalent to level 4.
  • Colour fastness requirements include:
    • The colour fastness to washing shall be at least level 3-4 for colour change and at least level 3-4 for discoloration (R70)
    • to wet rubbing must be at least level 2 to 3, excluding white or non-dyed/printed products (R71)
    • to dry rubbing shall be at least level 4, excluding white or non-dyed/printed products (R72)
    • Colour fastness to light shall be at least level 5 for fabrics that shall be used for furniture, curtains or drapes (R73)
Recycling systems

Relevant national laws, rules and business agreements concerning systems for recycling products and packaging must be met in the Nordic country where the ecolabelled product is sold.

Animal Welfare

The standard also contains some criteria regarding the treatment of animals. These include a ban on mulesing of merino sheep and a ban on down and feathers plucked from live birds.

Certification Process

On Site Audits or Desktop Review

Both. The eco-labelling organisation checks the application and documentation provided by the applicant and will thereafter conduct inspections at relevant points in the production process to check compliance with the information provided in the application.

Unannounced Inspections/Other Inspections

In order for the eco labelling organisation to ensure that the licensed products conform to the requirements, announced or unannounced periodic inspections (which may be carried out at the premises of the licensee, manufacturer, sub-contractor, importer, wholesaler and/or retailer) may take place.

Process

Application: The applicant sends an application form (downloadable from the ecolabel website) and written documentation showing that the manufacturer fulfils the requirements specified for that product group to the secretariat in the Nordic country in which the products are manufactured or sold. If there are no relevant criteria available, a company can submit a proposal for a new product group. The application must not only be signed by the applicant, but also the end manufacturer.

Review: The application is then reviewed by the ecolabelling organisation, checking that criteria are met using methods such as samples from independent laboratories and certificates. An on-site inspection is also made to the applicant and sub-contractors, if any, in order to verify compliance stated in the documentation submitted.

Licensing: Once an application has been approved, the product or service can be labelled with the Nordic Swan logo. If the label is granted in one Nordic country, it can also be used throughout the other Nordic countries, provided it undergoes a registration process in each country.

Spot checks may be carried out throughout the license holding period to ensure compliance is upheld. Furthermore, as the standard aims to review criteria every 3 to 4 years, in order to keep up to date with most recent research and technology developments, if a criterion is revised or replaced by a new one, the license will need to be renewed. To renew a license, an application for renewal must be submitted.

Timing

On average it takes a couple of months for an application to be considered, however this may vary greatly. If both the application and documentation are complete and correct from the beginning, the certification process may only take two weeks, however if the documentation is incorrect and has to be redone or the product has to be changed in order to get certified, the full process may take up to a year.

Audit Team

The certification body itself runs the inspections.  However, if the applicants are based geographically far away (e.g.  Asia), local companies may be used to conduct the inspections.

Frequency

The validity of the licence is confined to the period of validity of the relevant criteria document (as specified in the criteria document).

Certification and License Fee

The Nordic Swan ecolabel has an application fee of 2000 Euro, which covers the administration costs of the application. If the product is manufactured outside the Nordic countries, an additional fee is charged to cover travel expenses for an audit. This fee is not charged if the product is manufactured in the Nordic countries.

The company will also be charged an annual licensing fee, which depends on the company’s annual turnover (usually between 0.3% – 0.4%). The fees are used to fund criteria development and research, product checking, and publicity campaigns.

One licence may cover several products within a given product group if the products embody similar properties from an environmental perspective. Unless otherwise determined in each individual case, a licence covers the products from one production site.

To review an existing license (which happens if the criteria is revised), the applicant is also charged a 1000 Euro.

A full breakdown of fees per country can be found here.

Certificate Sample

nordicswan_certificate_sample

Implementation Tools

Tools

A Regulations document for Nordic labelling of products is available online, as well as several ‘Brochures’ relating to different areas of the ecolabel. There is also an ‘Ecolabelling Steps towards Sustainability’ document that gives insight into the purpose of the label.

Labeling

Process

The Swan logo can be shown on the product packaging and also used in marketing materials (such as TV advertisements, brochures etc). The logo must be located in a way that clearly indicates what it refers to.

Each licence is allotted a six-digit identity number which allows the product to be identified. This number must be displayed in conjunction with the label. The product group may also be specified below the label if the license-holder so wishes.

Applicability

Once a license has been granted to a product (which is once the product has fulfilled the criteria requirements for its product and this has been verified by the ecolabelling organisation), the product may be labelled with the Nordic Swan logo.

Regulations for the use of the Nordic label are specified here.

Guidelines for the use of the label are in development and will be available soon.

Fee

There are no additional costs to using the logo. The company must only pay the application and licensing fees as specified above.

Graphic Example

nordicswan_graphic_example

 

Appendix

Contact Information

Ecolabelling Denmark

Miljømærkning Danmark
Kollegievej 6
DK- 2920 Charlottenlund
Denmark

Telephone: +45 72 300 450
Fax: +45 72 300 451
Email: info@ecolabel.dk
Website: www.ecolabel.dk

Ecolabelling Sweden

S:t Paulsgatan 6
SE-118 80 Stockholm
Sweden 

Telephone: +46 8 555 524 00
Fax: +46 8 555 524 01
Email: info@ecolabel.se
Website: http://www.svanen.se/en

Ecolabelling Norway

Miljømerking
Tordenskiolds gate 6 B
NO-0160 Oslo
Norway

Telephone +47 24 14 46 00
Fax: +47 24 14 46 01
Email: info@svanemerket.no
Website: http://www.ecolabel.no/english/

Ecolabelling Finland
Ympäristömerkintä

Urho Kekkosen katu 4-6 A
PL 489
FI-00101 Helsinki
Finland

Telephone: +358 0424 2811
Email: joutsen@motiva.fi
Website: http://www.ymparistomerkki.fi/english

Ecolabelling Iceland
Umhverfisstofnun

Suðurlandsbraut 24
IS-108 Reykjavík
Iceland

Telephone: +354 591 2000
Fax: +354 591 2020
Email: ust@ust.is
Website: http://www.ust.is/the-environment-agency-of-iceland/

Bibliography

http://www.nordic-ecolabel.org/

http://www.ecolabel.dk/inenglish

http://www.ecolabel.dk/NR/rdonlyres/A452DD4F-FEE4-40A6-90AD-C56ED7B03EC3/0/RegulationsNordicEcolabelling.pdf

http://www.nordic-ecolabel.org/Templates/Pages/CriteriaPages/CriteriaGetFile.aspx?fileID=119150001

http://www.ecotextilelabels.com/textile-processing/nordic-swan.html

http://standards.europeanoutdoorgroup.com/standards/labels/swan-nordic-environmental-label