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Biogas and the Nordic Swan Ecolabel – an eight-year journey of collaboration
The Nordic Swan Ecolabel turns 30 this year. So far, over 2,000 products and services from over 60 different product groups have received the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. In 2011, Gasum's biogas was the first Finnish fuel for vehicles to receive the Swan label – and today it continues to remain the only Finnish traffic fuel with the Swan label.
What does a stain remover, a candle, biogas and a hotel have in common? The answer is that they have all been awarded the Swan label, a Nordic ecolabel standard established in 1989.
The Swan label is the official Nordic Ecolabel. It is awarded to products and services that are, from an environmental perspective, considered the best in their own product group. Receiving an ecolabel means passing strict criteria, and only 20-30% of products and services in each group can meet the designated standards required.
The ecolabel can only be awarded after a product or service has passed a detailed commenting round, expert assessment and fulfilled set criteria.
When a new group of products are earmarked for inclusion under the Swan Ecolabel, three different questions are asked: Can the product or service deliver a positive environmental impact? Is it possible that the product or service can help mitigate the negative environmental effects? Can the Swan Ecolabel help bring about an environmental improvement?
The criteria are created only after the three questions are successfully answered. Following their creation, the criteria go through another open commenting round, when everyone interested can both express their opinions of the criteria and also influence the precise content of the criteria.
"Each product and service have their own individual environmental load. The requirements cover the whole lifecycle of a product, from sourcing the material, all the way to usage and final disposal," says Roosa Jaakkola, Sustainability Specialist, Gasum.
The goal of the Swan Ecolabel is to promote sustainable development, step by step. In reality, this means that the criteria are regularly checked, and, when necessary, made stricter every three to five years. The revising of the criteria is based on new environmental information, technical development and market conditions.
Biogas was the first fuel in Finland to receive the Swan Ecolabel
In 2011, Gasum's biogas was the first Finnish fuel for vehicles to receive the Swan label. The ambition to aim towards being awarded the Nordic Swan Ecolabel was made when the biogas business was first established.
Gasum's biogas was awarded the Swan Ecolabel because its environmental effects are low compared to other fuels on the market. It continues to be the only Finnish fuel for vehicles that has received the Swan Ecolabel. In 2018, Gasum applied for a new label to meet the recently updated criteria.
"Biogas is an excellent product for the Swan Ecolabel as it is widely used and its environmental impact is considerably smaller than that of fossil fuels. By using domestic biogas made of organic waste and wastewater sludge, carbon dioxide emissions created during the lifecycle of fuel can be reduced by up to 85% compared to fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel," states Harri Hotulainen, the leading expert at Ympäristömerkintä Suomi Oy which manages the Swan Ecolabel.
As for biogas, the criteria for the Swan Ecolabel includes, for example, manufacturing based on completely renewable materials, such as organic waste. Futhermore, the traceability of biogas must be certified. A detailed calculation of greenhouse gas emissions originating from raw materials, manufacturing and delivery of biogas also needs to be attached.
Sustainability requires careful monitoring and calculation
Gasum provides detailed reports to Ympäristömerkintä about the environmental load of biogas. Greenhouse gas decreases are followed on a month by month basis and a comprehensive report is produced every year. When calculating emissions, the entire supply chain of biogas, from the very beginning to the end, is taken into account.
Biogas and the Swan Ecolabel provides evidence to consumers that by their choices they can help deliver more environmentally-friendly traffic in the future. Good cooperation with partner companies also helps to guarantee that the biogas supply chain is both high-quality and environmentally friendly.