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SEC toughens Green Label criteria for paper products - and ups certification cost

Singapore

IT will cost pulp and paper manufacturing companies more to slap the Green Label - a badge of eco-friendliness - on their products from this year, with new criteria unveiled on Tuesday by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC).

This is because the SEC, which administers the Singapore Green Label Scheme (SGLS), now considers how well these pulp and paper companies manage peatland and fires in the course of their operations, thus targeting the causes of the annual haze that blankets Singapore and the region.

A new risk-based evaluation that entails additional audits for high-risk companies, together with a three-year certification, are expected to cost companies at least $1,100 more than under the previous system.

SEC chairman Isabella Loh said: "We have been following international standards already, and our Green Label is part of the Global Eco-labelling Network (GEN). We felt that what was a gap in all the green labels was peatland management and fire management, which we've now pioneered."

The Green Label was launched in 1992 as a mark of environmentally-friendlier products. Until this year, it required yearly renewal and cost S$1,500 in the first year and S$1,000 in subsequent years. Twenty pulp and paper companies, which produce more than 30 products in Singapore among them, now come under the old SGLS.

The new scheme comprises a more thorough evaluation, entailing initial audits for high-risk companies and annual surveillance audits for all other companies.

It will also require companies to list every plantation supplying their materials, where previously, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified sources sufficed.

The cost of the new three-year certification will be S$4,600 for companies with normal risk, up from S$3,500 for three years under the old scheme.

Chong Khai Sin, head of eco-certifications at SEC, said: "The fees are a relatively small amount compared to the operating costs of the businesses that are currently applying. And for the risk assessment, (the fee increase) cannot be avoided."

The new criteria kicked in on Jan 1 and apply to companies seeking the Green Label for the first time.

The certification for existing Green Label-certified products renewed on or before June 30, 2017 will still come under the old criteria; these products can continue to display the old Green Label. However, they must comply with the new criteria at their next renewal next year. They will use the new logo from July 1, 2018, by which time the old logo would have been phased out.

Kimberly-Clark Corporation is the first company to express interest in obtaining the new certification for its Scott and Kleenex hand-towel and bath-tissue products.

Anuj Lal, group general manager of Kimberly-Clark Professional Asia-Pacific, said: "We want our customers to know we produce quality products manufactured to the highest environmental standards."

APRIL Group's flagship product PaperOne has held the Green Label since 2013 and meets the SEC's requirements for renewal under the old criteria before July; the new criteria will apply to it only next year.

Lucita Jasmin, APRIL's director for sustainability and external affairs, said: "We are keen to renew the label and will study the enhanced criteria closely."

Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Lim Biow Chuan encouraged consumers to purchase Green Label paper products: "Together, their collective voice will send a strong signal to pulp and paper companies to put in place environmentally friendly and sustainable business practices to help resolve the recurring haze issue in Singapore."