Locally developed, internationally accredited

The ecoASA label is a powerful tool transforming sustainable development in South Africa’s construction sector…

The ecoASA label, launched by its entity Agrément South Africa, fulfils a powerful part of the Green Building Policy, with eco-labelling providing accurate and honest information on the environmental aspects of products in order to encourage demand and supply of products that are less stressful on the environment. It is the first eco-label in Africa to be given Global Eco-label Network (GEN) membership, which brings enormous credibility and influence, with the GEN symbol having added weight and international validation to the ecolabels of its members for more than two decades.

Agrément SA is a competent, independent agency recognised as bringing impartial assessment to the evaluation of innovative construction products and systems in the interests of the consumer, and the construction industry at large, and it developed the ecoASA standard in alignment with best-practice international standards. Standards ensure that claims made about a product or service are accurate and not misleading; and while compliance with ecoASA by a product manufacturer is voluntary, it goes a long way towards establishing a reputation of trust. ecoASA-approved environmental auditors will verify whether a product conforms to the criteria set by the standard, and, after it has been certified, it may display the ecoASA eco-label, showing that it has been independently audited and demonstrates conformance with various environmental and social criteria.

How to apply for an eco-label

The standards will be available for any manufacturers prior to them making a formal application for an ecoASA label, and when they are ready to have a product evaluated, they can apply through Agrément SA. There are currently two product category standards (carpets and paints) that are available for certification. The product is evaluated by an independent assessor, against a set of criteria contained in the standard, with supporting documentation required to demonstrate conformance for each. In certain instances, on-site verification may also be required.

The environmental evaluation criteria have been developed based on the whole life-cycle of the product, from cradle to cradle. The indicators have been designed to ensure minimal harm (both to the environment and people who will be affected by the product) and include the restriction of harmful or toxic substances, the restriction of emissions into the environment (including greenhouse gases, or other gaseous emissions, water emissions and solid waste), the efficient use of materials, water and energy. Energy consumption is connected to greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint of the product. This is taken into account when a full life-cycle assessment (LCA) is performed. While a full LCA is an excellent indicator of the environmental impact of a product, it is onerous and costly to perform and is therefore not necessary for obtaining an ecoASA label, although it will enable the product to achieve a higher rating.

In addition to environmental criteria, a number of criteria have also been developed to ensure that the broader influence of the product or manufacturer is positive; so aspects relating to social responsibility, employment, innovation and legal standing are also included.

Once the independent assessor has evaluated the product’s level of compliance, an ecoASA label will be awarded according to the scoring system. This is valid for a period of three years, after which it will have to be renewed, with any changes to the process or composition of the product affecting the validity of the label.

The scoring system

The ecoASA standard comprises two parts: part 1 contains legal compliance, social and community responsibility and environmental compliance; criteria common to all product categories, while part 2 contains criteria that are applicable specifically to the product category – fit for purpose, raw materials, manufacture, packaging and distribution, use, disposal and reuse. Satisfying a certain number of criteria will entitle the product to be awarded an ecoASA label; and to differentiate between products that excel in meeting the criteria and those that meet the minimum criteria, a scoring system has been employed. On the top end of the scale, a rating of A+ can be awarded for products that perform well across the board, while a product that demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, despite a lack of compliance, can still achieve an eco-label. This scoring system allows for inclusivity and flexibility, and enables smaller manufacturers to compete in a market with a preference for products with an eco-label. The product rating is displayed on the product alongside the ecoASA label, in a similar fashion to the well-recognised South African Energy Efficiency Label.

The ecoASA label plays an important part in getting South Africa to achieve its global commitment to Agenda 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 and 45% by 2030. There is an urgent need for companies, particularly those within the construction industry, to modify their behaviour, and working towards globally recognised eco-labels is an excellent platform for individual action. Why not take your first step towards official environmental compliance?