Helping Tunisia develop ecolabels

A LIFE TCY project has laid the foundations for the application of an eco-label in Tunisia. By establishing the legal, institutional and procedural framework for eco-label certification, it should provide a catalyst to environmental improvements in key sectors of the Tunisian economy.

There is a growing desire in Tunisia for improved environmental performance within its industries. There is a real need to conserve limited natural resources, particularly water, and businesses are increasingly aware of the economic advantages of demonstrating good environmental performance in European and world markets.

The concept of an eco-label is very attractive to a country like Tunisia, which can thus promote better environmental performance without strict legislation on industries’ activities. A previous study had already identified an interest amongst Tunisian businesses and authorities to develop such an eco-label, and this reinforced the demand for LIFE TCY assistance.

The LIFE project, awarded €303 764 of TCY support, was led by Tunisia’s International Centre of Environmental Technologies (CITET) and aimed to convert this existing willingness into a practical reality. It started in January 2004 by carrying out a needs assessment. The project partner GTZ-Allemagne updated the previous study on the viability of developing a Tunisian eco-label, that produced positive results. Furthermore, an independent European expert confirmed their support for creating a Tunisian eco-label.

The needs assessment was expanded to identify the most suitable sectors and products for the application of an eco-label, through feasibility and market studies and discussions with relevant authorities. The textile and tourism sectors were highlighted as being particularly apt for its application.

The project followed up these preparatory studies with a detailed examination of the legal, regulatory and institutional framework needed for the implementation of the eco-label. It considered the physical, chemical and biological criteria for attainment of the label as well as the certification procedures.

An important part of the development of an eco-label is its recognition amongst consumers and clients. A competition was successfully held to design a logo for the new label to make it easily identifiable. Two studies were then carried out to determine the best methods of marketing the Tunisian eco-label at home and abroad. As a result, three information days were held on: the creation of a Tunisian eco-label; businesses and achieving the eco-label; and target sectors and the legal framework. An advertising campaign was launched with the help of seven NGOs and a web page on the label was kept permanently up to date.

Although the project was not able to start the implementation of the label, it did put in place most of the preparatory work for its eventual use. Perhaps the clearest achievement to this end was that the government agreed and signed the legal text creating the eco-label. A small pool of experts on eco-labelling was also identified for the first time in Tunisia.

By the end of the project, in June 2006, the LIFE team had established an action plan for the label’s implementation in the targeted sectors. The management system for the label – including technical and administrative aspects – was agreed and certification procedures were put forward. It is hoped that the agency chosen as being responsible for certification (INNORPI) will take on the eco-label and ensure its implementation.

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