A challenge for eco-labeling organizations in general is to be perceived as credible in the role as an intermediary between, on the one hand, consumers and purchasers of eco-labeled products, and producers who sell these products, on the other. From the perspective of consumers and purchasers it is crucial that the eco-labeling organization is perceived as neutral and independent from the producers that pay to be audited in order to use the eco-label on their products. Thus, consumers expect eco-labeling organizations to prove their independence in their role as inspectors and gatekeepers of eco-friendly values. From a producer perspective it is also crucial that consumers percieve the eco-labels trustworthy and decisive for the customers’ purchasing decisions, however, it is also vital that the requirements of the eco-labeling organization are percieved relevant and that compliance with the criteria is viable at a reasonable cost. In turn, this means that eco-labeling organizations, that depend on having customers willing to pay a fee to be audited, also need to act in the role of a decent business partner. Given this fundamental dilemma facing eco-labeling organizations, the question raised in the report is: How do eco-labeling organizations handle this tension to become credible? The report presents a qualitative study conducted by the state-run eco-labeling organization Svanen (the Swan) which is one of the largest and most recognized labels in Sweden. The study included interviews with twelve people in and around Svanen’s business activities. In the analysis, four organizing mechanisms are proposed to explain the construction of the credibility of Svanen: the reference to the state mandate; the use of inclusiveness in the criteria development work; the separation of organizational functions; and the promotion of Svanen as a "modern actor". It is concluded that these organizing activities (mechanisms) have expanded over time in terms of coordination and control activities, which in turn have generated additional efforts of coordination and control, not only from within the organization but also involving external auditors. In other words, an escalating pattern of coordination and control activities is identified. The findings from this study is compared to the existing knowledge about the legitimacy and credibility in the context of labeling organizations and certification auditing activities.
2015. , 45 p.