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Sustainability labels explained

Do you know the meaning behind all these sustainability labels? And could one composite label that reflects climate impact be the solution?

Photo: Example of generally used eco-labels on packaging

Without visual indicators, consumers cannot identify the sustainability of packaging. To effectively demonstrate the sustainability of their products, many companies now use sustainability labels. But a new study by the Authority for the Consumer and Market (ACM) shows that most consumers know remarkably little about sustainability labels. In this blog, we go through examples of widely recognized sustainability labels and their meaning.

Recycling symbol

  • This is a well-known and frequently used eco-label.

  • It symbolizes the recyclability of the packaging.

  • This eco-label is voluntary and is not related to the quality of the product.

Recycling Code PAP 20

  • This eco-label specifies which materials have been used to create the product packaging.

  • The relevant codes for the respective materials are anchored in the German Packaging Act. The code PAP 20 represents the material corrugated cardboard used.

  • Using the eco-label makes it easier to recycle packaging. End-users can quickly identify the respective material (corrugated cardboard) and then sort it appropriately.

  • This eco-label is voluntary and is not associated with the quality of the product.


  • This eco-label symbolizes the guaranteed disposal and material recycling of all transportation packaging and outer packaging made of paper and cardboard labeled with the RESY symbol.

  • When the RESY label is applied, the requirements of the German Packaging Act for transportation packaging are fulfilled.

  • Usage authorizations are required in order to use this eco-label.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

  • This eco-label is one of the best known and most popular eco-labels among consumers, This eco-label symbolizes the guaranteed disposal and material recycling of all transport packaging and outer packaging made of paper and cardboard that bear the RESY symbol.

  • Only certified companies are allowed to label their end products made of FSC®-materials with the respective label.

  • The FSC® Mix eco-label is used for packaging consisting of materials both made from FSC®-certified forests and/or recycled material, as well as material from controlled sources.

Do you want to find out more about the FSC certification? Here’s the link to further explanation.

B Corp certification

  • This eco-label is a certification for businesses, including a company’s entire social and environmental impact. In order to achieve certification, a company must: demonstrate high social and environmental practices, make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders and exhibit transparency by allowing all information regarding B Lab’s standards to be publicly available.

  • Only certified companies are allowed to label their end products with the respective label.

Interested to become B Certified? Here’s the link for more information.

Reliable and ambitious sustainability labels

At Milieu Centraal they assess eco-labels and report whether the label is reliable and ambitious or not. This is necessary because there is no independent verification of labels. The Keurmerkenwijzer shows which good sustainability labels to look out for.

Consumers, as well as producers and buyers, can assume that the label can be trusted if Milieu Centraal gives it a good score.

Here is the link to the Quality Marks Guide.

One composed quality mark representing the climate impact, is this the solution?

Paulien van der Geest, strategic communications advisor at Milieu Centraal, believes that labels should not be single-issued. She is a strong advocate of labels with the broadest possible scope, rather than single-issue labels.

She states the following: "Good examples are, Planet Proof and EU-organic, each with their own perspective. They also have a set of requirements for many types of products, from dairy to flowers. Because these labels are on many products, consumers will automatically recognize them."


Would you like to make the sustainability of your packaging visible at a glance?

Then feel free to contact us. At Zero Packaging, we design and deliver high-quality, sustainable packaging solutions with ZERO Impact.

Zero Impact Tailor-made 15 years experience



ACM. (2022). Up to the legislator to provide consumers with reliable information to help them make sustainable choices. Retrieved from

B Corporation. (2022). Certification. Retrieved from

Change Inc. (2022). How reliable is a sustainability label? Retrieved from

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). (2022). Certification. Retrieved from

1-800 Got Junk. (2022). Recycling codes - What do they mean. Retrieved from

RESY. (2022). Homepage. Retrieved from


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