How can we assess a label? And cover such diverse areas such as textiles, laptops and paper?
The answer is both simple and complex: with a well-founded methodology - designed by leading experts, backed by a scientific approach and presented in such a simple way that everyone can understand our ratings at a glance. This is the Sustainability Standards Comparison Tool, or SSCT for short. Our assessment, which labels can undergo voluntarily, is comprehensible, but never based on personal opinion and always on objective and transparent parameters instead.
At the heart of the SSCT is a 3-star scale that brings the multi-levelled evaluation process, which takes many individual factors into account, down to a simple statement that immediately indicates the ecological or social claim of a label. Depending on how many stars are achieved in the individual dimensions, we award the rating "very good choice" or "good choice". In addition to the rating, there is also the so-called “grey category”. In this category, labels are displayed for information purposes, e.g. because they have not completely fulfilled the minimum criteria for "good choice" or have not been assessed so far. Or they cannot yet be clearly assigned to one of the existing product groups, which is why we are not yet able to make a well-founded assessment.
So how do we work?
First of all, it is important to understand that we do not develop or award any labels, but review existing labels for their sustainability in various dimensions. Within their product group, the individual labels thus become comparable with each other. The assessment of the labels is based on a catalogue of more than 300 requirements (or critera) that leading experts from science, civil society and the private sector develop with us - based on existing international agreements, the latest scientific findings and the specifications of standard organisations. These include, for example, the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In the catalogue with the requirements, we distinguish between minimum requirements of the German Government and extended requirements. Both together form the overall grid of requirements. The requirements in the environmental and social dimensions are individually tailored to the respective product groups: for example, chemicals used in the textile sector are more relevant than in the IT sector, where the origin of conflict materials is a significant factor. However, the requirements of the credibility dimension are applied equally in each product group.
What are we looking at?
At the beginning of every assessment is the evaluation of the credibility of a label, as this is a key factor in determining whether one should trust its claims at all. The question here is how the organisation issuing the label works. Only then do we look at environmental and social aspects.
Our assessment is therefore carried out in two phases:
First, we check whether a label meets the minimum requirements of the German Government in the dimension of credibility as well as environment and/or social issues. Minimum requirements deal with issues that are of particular relevance. For example, because they play a particularly important role for environmental and social sustainability in the production process. One example is the ban on forced labour, which applies to all product groups and refers to the fundamental labour rights of the International Labour Organisation.
If a label does not meet these minimum requirements, it can instead be included under "other labels" and thus presented for information purposes (so-called 'grey category'). This category also includes labels that may not yet have been evaluated or labels for which Siegelklarheit does not yet offer the appropriate product group.
However, if a label fulfills the minimum requirements of the first phase, we then check the entire grid of requirements of the corresponding product group in detail in a second step and based on this award the rating "very good choice" or "good choice".
How is this linked with the stars?
The number of stars indicates whether a label fails to meet, meets or even exceeds the minimum requirements, which ultimately leads to the statement "Good choice" or "Very good choice".
To obtain the rating result "Good choice", two stars in the area of credibility and two stars in the area of environmental friendliness or social responsibility must be achieved. Similarly, three stars in the area of credibility and three stars in the area of environmental friendliness or social responsibility lead to the assessment result "Very good choice".
How does the assessment come about?
In addition to meeting the minimum requirements in at least two dimensions, the possible total number of points to be achieved is particularly decisive for the claim "Very good choice" and we would like to briefly outline our approach here. We follow an absolute approach in which we first distinguish whether a requirement is fulfilled or not. In order to be able to take into account the diversity of the different labels, we distinguish between different levels of intensity for many requirements:
If a requirement is fulfilled on a basic level (basic) by a standard, we award 1 point; if, on the other hand, the standard has an even higher level of intensity (advanced), we award 2 points. An example of this is the use of synthetic pesticides, which is restricted at the basic level of intensity, but must be banned in the higher level of intensity. Thus, by adding up the scores for each requirement, a possible maximum score can be derived and, based on this, it can be calculated when a label has reached 60% or more of the total score in a certain area. This is then displayed by our star rating. However, this subdivision is not necessary for all requirements, these are evaluated with 1 point when fulfilled.
How is the data for an assessment collected?
We always work with independent evaluators and the International Trade Centre (ITC), established by the UN and WTO, to collect the standard data.
The ITC coordinates the review process and makes the raw data available for evaluation by the SSCT. The standard-setting organisations provide all relevant documents for the reviewers and review the data after the collection is completed. A final quality check is then carried out by experts at the ITC before the raw data arrives at the backend of Siegelklarheit and the assessment methodology SSCT is applied.
If the standard organisation agrees to publish its own assessment, the assessment result is submitted to the Steering Committee of Siegelklarheit for approval. This committee ultimately decides whether the results of the assessment will be published. For more information on the committee see Initiative of the German Government. Afterwards, the assessment will be posted on the website by the Secretariat of Siegelklarheit.
You have further questions?
You want to understand in detail how the evaluation methodology works? Or check which requirements we have formulated for certain product groups and what they are based on?
Then take a look at our Download and Information Area. There you will find, among other things, a list of all requirements for each product group as well as further details on the assessment methodology.