Consumer NZ testing must compare like-for-like

The country’s official ecolabel is calling on Consumer NZ to modernise its approach to product testing, and provide much-needed context when comparing environmentally-preferable products with standard items.

Eco Choice Aotearoa has certified products and services for more than 30 years, according to its rigorous, peer-reviewed and open-source criteria. In addition to assessing environmental impact, the ecolabel also ensures products do not use unnecessary hazardous ingredients and are safe-for-use.

Consumer NZ recently tested almost 60 laundry products, including liquids, powders, capsules and sheets. Only one eco product featured in the top 10.

“Of course, something packed with harsh chemicals will likely outperform an environmentally-preferable option, but it’s a question of trade-offs,” says Eco Choice Aotearoa’s Chief Executive Laura Gemmell. “For instance, I will always choose products I know are safe for my family, don’t adversely affect the lifespan of my clothing, and have minimal impact on our waterways, and wider environment. ”

Eco Choice adds it’s not just about what’s inside the bottle.

“Our certification requires businesses to have effective product stewardship initiatives in place. For the likes of laundry products, many businesses have begun setting up refilleries or put take-back schemes in place to reduce plastic production and waste”, says Gemmell.

“For example, Will & Able, which manufactures a range of cleaning products, recently set up collection points around Tāmaki Makaurau for their bottles. They sterilise those bottles and re-use them; a more preferable option than recycling, which is resource and emissions intensive.”

“Will & Able also provide jobs to people with disabilities so there’s a bunch of reasons to support them.”

The ecolabel has previously asked Consumer NZ to review the way it tests and compares products. It believes its reluctance to do so is undermining the efforts of businesses working hard to provide sustainable alternatives, and doing a disservice to shoppers wanting to make responsible choices.

“Not all eco products are created equal, some will be more effective than others, and they should not be exempt from scrutiny,” says Laura Gemmell. “We’re simply asking Consumer NZ to look at the bigger picture, and either include environmental credentials in its scoring or adopt a like-for-like approach when comparing products, to better inform conscious consumers.”

“Consumer NZ has an important legacy of helping Kiwis make better choices. We genuinely respect and value their mahi,” says Laura Gemmell. “But given the rapid acceleration of the climate and biodiversity crises, organisations like ours need to korero and share our knowledge to ensure we’re working together, and toward a thriving motu for future generations”.