Certification Labels That Make The Grade

In a marketplace saturated by certification labels, some have gained consumer loyalty and others miss the mark.


> Energy Star

Launched by the EPA in 1992 with the goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions through energy efficiency, Energy Star reaches consumers by promising savings — of time, money, and energy.
Consumers who know it: 87%
Consumers who choose it: 56%
Why it’s trustworthy: Consumers see government-backed labels as unbiased, and it doesn’t hurt that this one saves them money.

> USDA Organic

The label launched in 2002 with the National Organic Program, both the result of 1990’s Organic Foods Production Act.
Consumers who know it: 62%
Consumers who choose it: 23%
Why it’s trustworthy: Like Energy Star, the government gives this label a trust boost. It took 10 years to write the standards, and now third-party certifiers make sure that the tens of thousands of organic farmers nationwide adhere to them.


> Fair Trade Certified

Fair Trade U.S.A. ensures that farmers are treated and paid fairly. The organization started certifying coffee in 1998 and now certifies more than 100 product categories.
Consumers who know it: 18%
Consumers who choose it: 6%
Why it’s trustworthy: In 2009, the organization helped generate $48 million in additional income for farmers.



> Green-e Energy

The Center for Resource Solutions, a national not-for-profit, started Green-e Energy in 1997 to certify renewable-energy utility programs.
Consumers who know it: 21%
Consumers who choose it: 7%
Why it’s trustworthy: Green-e tracks each megawatt hour of renewable electricity.


> Leaping Bunny Certified

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics launched the Leaping Bunny program in 1996 to help consumers choose products made without new animal testing.
Consumers who know it: 11%
Consumers who choose it: 5%
Why it’s trustworthy: Products that say “not tested on animals” may refer only to the end product; Leaping Bunny Certified means that every ingredient is cruelty-free.