Change Your Shoes releases a Label Check report

More work is still needed – Ecological and social labelling of footwear and leather

Eco-label standards must improve to protect workers in the shoe industry, says a new report released today.

One way for shoe companies to work on improving the social and ecological standards in their supply chain is through joining labelling and monitoring organisations. To assess the quality of these labels, a report is launched today by Change Your Shoes which reviews different label standards common in European countries.  The report, ‘Still much to do’ should not only help EU citizens in their purchasing decisions, but should also act as a guideline for European brands as to which is the best labelling initiative or monitoring organisation to join.

The global footwear and leather industry suffers from a long history of extensive violations of workers’ rights and disregard for environmental standards, as well as links to health problems for workers and consumers. The report finds that footwear and leather products produced under labelling schemes like Austrian Ecolabel, The Nordic Swan or IVN Naturleder have a positive impact for consumers and the environment, but much improvement is needed.

Weak on social criteria

All labels except the ‘Austrian Ecolabel on Shoes’ are weak on social criteria. The EU Ecolabel, Nordic Swan, and IVN Naturleder make reference to relevant EU conventions.

“Five out of the twelve labels reviewed in the report have no social criteria at all”, said the authors of the report. “This can be explained by the fact that the labelling schemes have generally focused on ecological criteria. However, considering the increasing focus on social sustainability in the clothing and footwear industry and increased consumer awareness in Europe, the labelling schemes would be well advised to start systematically working on developing stronger social criteria.”

Good on ecological criteria

Five of the twelve labels have a reasonably good score on ‘Ecological criteria’.  Blauer Engel, Austrian Ecolabel on Shoes, IVN Naturleder and the Nordic Swan not only apply threshold limits, but also ban a number of hazardous chemicals and heavy metals. This approach is recommended for all labels both to reduce the use of chemicals to benefit workers, the environment, and consumers, but also to ensure that labelling schemes stay well ahead of legal requirements like REACH, the European regulations on chemicals.

However, there is still much work to be done. The labelling schemes must develop better criteria, especially with regard to social issues like the living wage and better transparency in the supply chain. Environmental criteria for these labels are above the average for consumer products, but also need improvement.

It is vital that labelling schemes move and develop quickly to ensure that they truly become and remain leading examples both for brands and for consumers.


Change Your Shoes works with people as consumers and citizens to demand better working conditions for the makers of our leather shoes. We carry out research on the working and environmental conditions in the leather and shoe production as a basis for the dialogue with EU citizens, decision-makers, and shoe brands. We also collaborate with trade unions and labour rights groups and support their struggles for better working conditions in production countries. Change Your Shoes is a partnership of 15 European organisations and 3 Asian organisations.

You can find the full report here

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