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Turkey poised to create its own green certificate

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/8/2010 12:00:00 AM | LIAM HARDY

Producing environmentally friendly products is not yet a prominent trend in Turkey, but efforts are underway to make them a viable part of the economy. Some companies have sought accreditation for meeting environmental standards from a European Union program, and a national labeling system could be in the works

Turkish companies providing green products and services can participate in Ecolabel, a EU certification program for organizations meeting environmental standards set by the body, by applying through the environment ministries of current EU members.

However, Turkey does not have the authority to award the label since it is negotiating to become an EU member, according to Hakan Çelik, a hydrogeology engineer at the Environment Ministry’s Department of Monitoring and Inspection who also is the contact person for Ecolabel in Turkey.

Established in 1992, Ecolabel encourages businesses to market goods and services that are kinder to the environment, according to the program’s website. Products and services awarded the label carry a flower logo, allowing consumers to know that they meet the program’s strict environmental standards. Companies that can apply include those providing cleaning products, appliances, paper products, textiles, home and garden products, lubricants and services, such as tourist accommodation.

“At the moment we cannot give the EU’s Ecolabel in Turkey, but we are planning to do so,” Çelik said. “We are in the harmonization process for the legislation of the EU aquis. We are trying to establish the regulation of Ecolabel, but in order to give the label, the European Commission must give Turkey a competent authority role.”

Without such a role, Turkey cannot confer the label on products and services, he said.

“That’s why we are planning to create a national labeling system that we can use until membership,” he said, adding that this system would be mostly compatible with the EU’s label after membership. The program will be a “kind of a pilot study of the Ecolabel in Turkey,” he said.

As the idea for a national labeling system for environmentally friendly products and services is still in the planning stages, Çelik said there are no plans yet about a name or logo for the program, but the ministry is thinking of organizing a contest to define such a label.

Turkey opened the environment chapter with the EU at the end of last year.

As of the end of June, 1,064 companies throughout Europe had obtained the Ecolabel, and four from Turkey had received the label by applying though other EU countries. These include three textile companies, Deniz Tekstil, Sanko Tekstil and Uniteks Tekstil, as well as a tourism company, Sunwing Resort Spa in Side, Antalya.

Burçin Aydın, a chemical engineer for Deniz Tekstil, said the company obtained the label because it “cares about the environment and people’s health and wants to work ecologically.” Their foreign contacts and export partners also want such labels on products, she said, adding that having the label can create a competitive edge.

“The process for Ecolabel was relatively easy because we were ready,” Aydın said.

The company Ekokimya, which produces biodegradable cleaning goods with its brand Ecowell, also seeks a market share for green products in Turkey. With eight employees, Ekokimya’s factory is tucked away in an industrial section of Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü neighborhood.

“Global warming, water contamination, ozone depletion and similar trends have been known for more than three decades,” said Oğuzcan Ünver, a chemical engineer and sales representative for the company. “Nevertheless, people are just becoming aware of them [in Turkey].”

Pollution and health risks caused by detergents represent one of these trends, he said, adding that people are more willing to do something about the problems as they become aware of them. “Many people want to use green cleaning products or support their use. However, in most cases, they are more expensive, and they slightly under-perform,” he said. “Thus, most people do not want to spend their money on green cleaning products.”

“Ecolabel is not known in Turkey, but it probably will be much more known,” Ünver said, adding that his company plans to apply for the label. “We are already producing products that are accommodating [Ecolabel], so we won’t have a problem,” he said.

There are many green cleaning products sold in Turkey through network marketing systems, such as Amway Global and Petras, which owns Ecolinn, a private label brand produced by Ekokimya, Ünver said. In the fast-moving consumer-goods market, only a few importers are bringing green liquid-cleaning products to Turkey, but Ünver expects more companies to enter the market.

While there are plenty of organizations offering certifications for green products, their criteria and understanding of “green” differs and most of the criteria are really easy to meet, according to Ünver. “Nevertheless, I can easily say that the big deal is convincing the customers, not getting certificates,” he said.

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