Korea Online GReen product Information Network (KOGRIN)
Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Since 1980s, the Korean economy has experienced a rapid development, which led to a hike in production and consumption, causing a serious social concern for a myriad of environmental problems. As countries around the world have started to recognize the significance of environmental issues facing the planet earth, there was a need for new environmental initiatives commensurate with market principles. The Ministry of Environment (the MOE) in South Korea has come to realize that existing rules and regulations, which were centered upon businesses and its operators, were not sufficient to deal with the problems, consequently calling for a need to come up with ways to reduce environmental pollution caused by consumption patterns of the public. As part of initiatives for sustainable production and consumption, the Ministry adopted an eco-labelling system in 1992 and founded KELA (Korean Environmental Labelling Association). The Eco-labelling is an initiative designed to provide information about how much impact products will have on the environment during the processes of production and consumption by putting a label on the products with a relatively less environmental impact compared to other products used for the same purposes, encouraging companies to develop and manufacture environmental friendly products that satisfy the needs of the customers. Yet, the efforts made by the MOE have not produced positive results. The general public had a difficulty in getting information about products with an eco-label (hereinafter referred to as Eco-product) and the absence of incentives to buy the products has led to a poor purchasing performance. Naturally, manufacturers started to complain that even if they developed eco-products, their products were often shunned by consumers including public organizations. Even consumers also argued that although they wanted to buy eco-products, it was not uncommon to see products that fail to satisfy their needs. An Economy has a virtuous cycle of production and consumption, and supply and demand. Production and supply make a pair, so do consumption and demand. And economic activities take place by the exchange of demands of each entity. We have now learned that in order for the environment and an economy to be harmoniously interconnected, consumption and production should be based on the environmental friendly foundation. What’s more, we have also realized that creating a society for environmental friendly consumption and production requires cooperation and participation of both the public and private sector.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In striving to introduce Act on Encouragement of Purchase of Green Products, since 2000, the MOE and the KELA have looked into how other countries including Japan and the EU were dealing with issues regarding the promotion of eco-product sales, exchanged ideas and knowledge among industries and formed public opinion through civil groups and the media. Fortunately, this helped relevant legislations incorporated into part of the government’s 100 tasks in running state affairs in 2003, ultimately leading to the enactment of Act on Encouragement of Purchase of Green products on Dec. 31st, 2004. With the entry into force of the Act on July 1st, 2005, the MOE and the KELA established a framework for green consumption promotion and an eco-product information system. In a bid to materialize the commitment, they established a ‘Green Consumption Research Center’ composed of 20 experts from academia, organizations, research institutes and industries, and launched an initiative, ‘Eco Product Purchase Encouragement Master Plan’ with the goal of a national transition to green consumption, strengthening public mandatory purchase, enhancing international cooperation and promoting eco-product manufacturing/distribution. In particular, in attempting to address issues such as the absence of product information and assistance provision to companies struggling to advance into markets, ‘4 Strategies for the Establishment and Management of Eco-product Information System’ were drawn up as follows. 1) Establishment of eco-product online certificate system, 2) Expansion of access to information on the Internet 3) Linking green consumption policy measures to information provision, 4) Collection and analysis of green consumption performance. To implement the 4 Strategies for the Establishment and Management of Eco-product Information System, ‘KOGRIN (Korea Online Green-product Information Network), (www.greenproduct.go.kr) ’ was launched in the same year, where consumers can have access to information on the websites of public organizations, which include photos of eco-products designated by the government, and can make a purchase of them. In partnership with 12 organizations and companies including the KONEPS (Korea On-line e-Procurement System, g2b) of the Public Procurement Service in which the vast majority of the Eco-product online transactions among public organizations takes place, the Korea Water Resources Development Corporation and BC Card, eco-product information totaling approximately 10,000 were made public to promote consumption. Recently, new efforts such as the standards of the eco-products information openness and quality control have been made to achieve a consistent linkage between the KOGRIN and other systems. Since 2005, in pursuit of making companies responsible green product manufacturers and the widespread of sustainable consumption culture, we encouraged about 140 companies including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Hyundai Motor, Sony Korea and POSCO to sign a voluntary industrial green purchase agreement. In addition, a subcommittee composed of experts from the fields of energy, electricity /construction, distribution, life and service has also done its part to help implement a substantial green purchase, which involves planning, implementation of green purchase, promotion of green purchase activities and information sharing.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
While other countries such as China and Japan have green production schemes including eco-labelling, based on its incredible IT infrastructure, South Korea has pursued active information sharing about eco-products and purchase performance of each organization in partnership with the public and private sector, thus facilitating eco-product consumption and production. Such a network (the KOGRIN) is known to be unprecedented in the world. In an attempt to promote green purchase in the private sector, a wealth of information regarding environmental policy measures has been made accessible to the general public. Firstly, we have enabled consumers to have easy access to information about stores selling eco-products by designating green stores in large retail establishments. In addition, by simply using a mobile app for KOGRIN that consumers can download on their smart phones at no cost, they have been able to get information about the location of the closest stores, how to get there and the lists of eco-products stored in the stores. Secondly, the Green Card system has been implemented under the motto of ‘purchasing eco-products lead to rewards’. The Green Card is an incentive system through which those who issue the card as a credit card can receive incentives by accumulating points called Eco-money when purchasing eco-products.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
① Materialization of Online Eco-product Certification System (2005) Before, information about eco-products was not be able to provide to the public and industries in real time thanks in large part to the eco-labelling certification system whose procedure work was done in one office, thus resulting in poor performance of the system. In response to that, efforts were made to make the overall processes of the eco-labelling certification system available online, which is composed of an application for certification -> approval -> establishment of information about certified products (eco-products) through standardization, streamlining and computerization, helping lay a basis for an innovative production and distribution. As a results, it has led to a much shorter time spent on the legal processes of the certification procedures from 30 days to on average 20 days from 2005 and to a dramatic increase in the number of certified products ever since. The number of certified products has gone up by 357% from 1,536 to 7,904, which is a 6,368 increase between 2005 and 2010. Compare this to figures between 1999 and 2004, which was up from 143 to 1,536, a 1,393 increase. Meanwhile, regulations on the abusive use of the eco-label, which is intended to earn consumers’ trust, were established to prevent potential problems. ② Establishment of Korea Online GReen Product Information Network (KOGRIN) for the Enhancement of Information Utilization (2006) With the Eco-product Certification system being stored in an intranet (private computer network) the disclosure of Eco-product information was unavailable. To address this, the KOGRIN was launched to establish a framework of data collection about certified products, information disclosure about eco-products and interconnectness between eco-products, thus achieving a flexible platform for the real time disclosure of eco-product information, effective utilization and linkage. As of 2012, a wealth of information regarding a total of 8,000 different eco-products, purchasing records and system introduction were made public. ③ Information Sharing for the Implementation of Green Consumption Initiative (2007) Establishing an information sharing platform for consumers through the KOGRIN requires a variety of methods. Based on procedures which include recognizing the needs of consumers, establishing an information linkage and providing customized information, eco-product information has been provided in the forms of DB to DB, API (Application Program Interface) and Excel. And in cooperation with12 organizations including Korea On-Line E-Procurement System, Korea Water Resources Corporation, local governments, national educational institutions, large retail stores and green card affiliated companies, a wealth of information about approximately 10,000 eco-products have been provided in real time. For recent years, the standardization of the data based on the Open API (Open Application Programmer Interface) has helped consumers have easier access to the eco-product information while quality control has been also implemented to enhance the reliability of the provided information. ④ Establishment and Management of Green Consumption Performance Collection and Analysis System(2010) The performance of green consumption has been totaled through the KOGRIN to check to see if the system works in an effective way. The Korea On-Line E-Procurement System of the Public Procurement Service collects purchasing records to provide information about purchasing performance relative to initial plans of each organization, purchasing grades (excellent, average, poor) while the analysis of those data are used as basic materials for green consumption/production policy measures such as best practices and policy improvements. As for sales performance, the revenue from the eco products purchased by public organizations was increased from 254.9 billion won (about US$ 254.9 million) in 2004 to 1.797 billion (about US$ 1.727 billion) in 2012 while the number of certified companies was up from 37 in 1992 to 1,685 in 2012. The scale of the market for eco-friendly products also went up from 3.3 trillion (about US$ 3.3 billion) won in 2005 to 30 trillion (about US$30 billion) in 2012. Meanwhile, in trying to further boost purchasing, both the public and private sector have continued to deliver education programs (10 regions nationwide) to raise awareness of the public on green purchase.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The ultimate beneficiaries of the KOGRIN are expected to be companies producing certified green products and the public on the grounds that the widespread of sustainable production and consumption will contribute to the creation of healthy production and consumption. However, the primary interested parties in the public sector are technically the Public Procurement Service responsible for the provision of information regarding sales performance of eco products, product classification, total performance, and the Korea Water Resources Corporation and the Army Headquarters, whose finance systems are interconnected with those of other organizations. As for the private sector, about 140 companies including Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motors, Sony Korea and Posco have singed a voluntary agreement to purchase eco-products while 6 subcommittees have strived to promote the implementation of substantial green purchasing. Regionally, distributors and local governments have joined forces to designate Green Purchasing Support Centers and Green Stores in each region, strengthening the protection of consumers’ right and consumption/distribution systems.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
After the establishment of the KOGRIN in 2005, a total of 550 million won (about US$ 550,000) have been funneled into information collection, sales performance aggregation and information sharing with 80% of the money covered by profits from certification issuance and 20 % from the government assistance. It is expected that due to a potential rise in the number of companies with certified green products, profits from the certification issuance will be able to pay 100 % of the spending in 2 to 3 years. Indirectly, about 5 billion won (about US$ 5 million) have been invested in the standardization of the green product certification and certification issuance with approximately 50 % of the amount being covered by profits from certification issuance. In managing the KOGRIN, 5 personnel of the Korea National Environmental Information Center at the KEITI (Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute) have been directly engaged in computerization of certification issuance, green product information collection and evaluation, sales revenue aggregation and its analysis, and the sharing of data regarding policy demand while about 50 persons of Green Lifestyle Department and Environmental Certification Department have indirectly been involved in drawing up and implementing policy measures for the promotion of green consumption. The information about green product has been provided and shared with other organizations via servers and networks, designed for the provision of ICT based-information, and servers interconnected with other organizations. In particular, we have been credited for the provision of public information by the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, allowing us to receive technical assistance at no cost for Open API (Open Application Programmer Interface) development and information quality control from 2013.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
① Sharing Information about Purchase Records Made by the Public Sector (including Public Procurement Service) Sales revenue from public organizations on the KOGRIN (www.greenproduct.go.kr) rose from 254.9 billion won (about US$ 254.9 million) in 2004 to 727 billion (about US$ 1.727 billion) in 2012. And the number of certified companies also increased to 1,685 in 2012 from 37 in 1992. All of this greatly contributed to the surge in the scale of the market for eco-friendly products, which was up from 3.3 trillion won (about US$ 3.3 billion) in 2005 to a whopping 30 trillion (about US$ 30 billion) in 2005. Based on the purchasing records on the basis of 19 items sold to public organizations, which includes electric/electronic devices (11), construction materials (3), office furniture and other items (5), the degree of CO2 reduction was analyzed. The results of the analysis found that the amount of CO2 emissions reduced amounted to about 268 ton. This is corresponding to the amount of CO2 absorbed by around 2400 of 10-year-old pine trees, which is also equivalent to more than 40.5 billion won (about US$40.5 million) in economic benefits. ② Green Card System Management in the Private Sector With a view to encouraging green lifestyle of the general public and substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Green Card system was designed to help promote easy and convenience lifestyle that comes with incentives. With the first Green Card issued to President Lee Myung-Bak in July 2011, the number of the green card issuance stood at a staggering 7 million as of Dec. 2013. In addition to purchasing eco-products in daily lives as conventional credit cards, card holders receive points called Eco-money when practicing green lifestyle. For instance, those who reduce power, water and gas can accumulate from 70,000 up to 100,000 won and those who use public transportation can accumulate from 5000 won up to 10,000 on a monthly basis. Besides, purchasing affiliated green products in large retail stores and departments can also lead to points of 5 % of the products’ prices. In Feb. 2012, 539 products from 45 companies were part of the system. Other incentives include 50% discount for campsite in national parks and forest lodges, and free entry or discount for 183 public facilities in 15 institutions nationwide. BC card member banks (IBK, NH Nonghyup, Woori Bank, Hana SK Card, Daegu Bank, Busan Bank, Kyoungnam Bank and Post Office) and KB Kookmin Card issue the green card. It holds a significant meaning in the fact that the conception and development of the green card system were attributable to the combination of the public sector’s commitment (the Ministry of Environment and Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institution) to green purchasing and green product information networks, and the consumption infrastructure in the private sector. In addition, in an attempt to disseminate the benefits of the system to the world, in June 2012 in Brazil, the Ministry of Environment and Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute held a High Level Policy Forum on Development of Framework for Green Economy at Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in cooperation with the UNESCAP. At the forum, the Green Purchasing System and Green Cards were introduced as best practices, attracting a positive response.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
With the enactment and enforcement of Act on Encouragement of Purchase of Green Products in 2005, the Ministry of Environment and Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute established master plans from 2006 to 2010 and have conducted performance evaluations every year, aiding in re-establishing advanced plans through the assessment of comprehensive performances and analysis thereof after 5 years. In fact, the results of the first evaluation of the master plan of Encouragement of Purchase of Green Products Act hav1e served as a stepping stone for the second basic plan, producing tangible results such as the Green Card system, Green Purchasing Support Centers in each region and the provision of environmental friendly construction materials. Recognizing the significance of the monitoring of purchasing performances of the public institutions leading the eco-friendly product market, we have set binding obligations on public organizations to collect the records of eco-product purchase made through the KOGRIN and make plans to implement the purchasing. Based on this, we have been reported those data from the public organization each year and used them for the government statistics. In doing so, we have also made efforts to strengthen the reliability of the data by establishing a platform for automatically sharing information about eco-product transactions made through the Public Procurement Service in which most of the transactions of public organizations take place. In addition, in an attempt to hold the public organizations accountable for the obligations to purchase eco-products, the eco-product purchasing performance was incorporated in the lists of organization management evaluations, putting limitations on the government support.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
A report published by the Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) in 2011 found that while South Korea ranked 6th among 28 OECD member countries in terms of green growth in 2010, it ranked 24th in terms of green consumption. The statistics attest to the fact that without the shift in the perception of eco-friendly lifestyle, technology development and green product production are unable to meet the global challenges such as climate change and environmental threats. Then, how are we going to enhance the awareness of the green consumption and to make the transition to the genuine green lifestyle? A national survey of green lifestyle conducted by the Presidential Committee on Green Growth in 2012 showed that 22% of those surveyed (1,000) responded that incentives are the most important to make more people engaged in green lifestyle. And Yong et al. in the UK conducted research in 2010 on consistency/inconsistency between the mindset and actual decisions to show the impact of the discrepancy on the actual decision-making about eco-products through in-depth interview. The results of the research showed that the process of purchasing green products was influenced by a number of factors including the level of the consumers’ perception about green values, previous experiences, length of time spent on decision-making, intensity of interest in environmental issues and product price. On balance, it can be concluded that green purchasing can be promoted when people become more conscious about environmental issues and legitimate incentives (or affordable prices of the products) are offered. Keeping in mind them described above, we have tried to mirror them in the 2nd Master Plan of Encouragement of Purchase of Green Products Act between the years of 2011 and 2015, and to faithfully carry out the plan, thus allowing us to successfully solve much of the problems. What we would like to present here is inarguably the Green Card System. That is because the system has made an awful lot of contributions to an increase in purchase acceptance of green products by setting up a new frame. As a result of that, in Dec. 2013, the number of the green card holders amounted to a staggering 7 million. In addition, designated Green Purchase Support Centers have served as a venue for education commensurate with each regional situation and information exchange, helping further encourage green consumption.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
One of the most significant benefits of the KOGRIN is that green consumption has risen through a virtuous cycle of supply and demand of sustainable consumption/production. In 2011, the scale of the market for eco-products was close to 26.8 trillion won (around US$ 26.8 billion). Sales of Office devices such as PCs and Printers accounted for 63% of the total sales revenues, and construction materials and household products took up 11 % and 8%, respectively. Further, on the strength of the rise of green consumption due in large part to the Green Card System and the government’s ‘low carbon green growth’ policy, the green product market is predicted to continue to grow. In cooperation with the UNEP, starting from 2013, we have invested a total of US$ 450,000 in an initiative designed to assist ASEAN member countries in adopting an eco-labelling system and a green purchasing system by 2015. In fact, in recent years, countries around the world have started to pay more attention to South Korea’s policies regarding environmental friendly products and notably, a variety of Asian countries want to cooperate with Korea. The KEITI (Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute) and the UNEP have joined hands to disseminate best practices of Korea’s green consumption system, which involves the hosting of the SCP education program for those in charge of environmental policies from 10 ASEAN member nations. Green product purchase has also led to a rise in the sense of soundness in economy, society and environment. Indeed, the impact of CO2 reduction was analyzed on the basis of public institutions’ purchasing records from 2005 to 2010, showing that approximately 26,800 tons of CO2 were reduced, which is corresponding to the amount of CO2 absorbed by about 2400 pine trees and 40.5billion won (US$ 4.05 million) in economic benefits. The data of purchasing performance is being collected by the KOGRIN (Korea Online GReen product Information Network, (www.greenproduct.go.kr)) which is linked to the Public Procurement Service. The lists of green products purchased by public institutions and local governments, and their prices are aggregated in real time and reported to the Ministry of Environment. With the purchasing performance being one of the critical components in the institution evaluation, the sale of eco-products and collection of its data via the green product information network inevitably has contributed to raising convenience and reliability in terms of the transaction.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Economic sustainability: owing to a rise in green consumption and the number of green companies, profits from green product certification issuance are expected to continue to increase. Environmental sustainability: by promoting green consumption and green production, environmental pollutants caused by economic activities will be naturally on the decrease. Cultural sustainability: Boosting green consumption through the use of the Green Cards in the private sector will give rise to the creation of a healthy and sustainable consumption culture. Endeavors to achieve the sustainable consumption/production, including eco-product certification and the establishment of the KOGRIN, are expected to have an impact on primarily 3 factors. First is economic sustainability. A surge in green consumption can lead to increased productivity of companies, which in turn gives rise to a rise in profits from eco-product certification issuance. Second is environmental sustainability. The more green consumption and production are facilitated, the harder companies will work on the eco-product research and development. And this will significantly help reduce environmental pollutants resulting from conventional economic activities. Third is cultural sustainability. Encouraging the private sector to practice green consumption, including the use of the Green Cards, will contribute to the creation of healthy consumption which puts an emphasis on the environmental aspect. Examples of benchmarking: Introduction to Korea’s exemplary cases in United Nations High-level Panel on Global Sustainability Report (the GSP report), selection of an advisory committee (the UNEP International Sustainable Public Procurement Initiative) and foundation of the UNEP Asian SPPI learning center. The green consumption initiative in Korea, which was incorporated in the UN GSP in Feb. 2012, was introduced to the world as an exemplary case of a sustainable public procurement, which is unprecedented among Korean environmental policies, and has been presented in a total of 8 international conferences including UN conference. In June 2012, at Rio+20 held in Brazil, South Korea chaired a policy forum on ‘green economy’, attracting substantially positive responses from countries from home and abroad. Thanks in large part to such achievements, the international community has started to pay more attention to Korea’s green policies, thus aiding in making the Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute be part of the founding members of the UNEP Sustainable Public Procurement Advisory Committee (SPPI) In Dec. 2012, in continuous consultation with the UNEP, we developed an Korean benchmarking program (KoSCP) for the expansion of sustainable consumption and production while working on the development of customized training courses aimed at helping 3 Asian countries (including Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia) develop capacities.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Through the experiences in the widespread of the Green Cards and green consumption among the general public, we have come to a realization that there is a pressing need for implementing public policy from the perspective of governance, which will be actively engaged by the public. In addition, with regard to low carbon and sustainable consumption, policies should focus on creating a society where people from every corner of the society, including the public sector, industries and households, seek a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. By doing so, green capitals that go to green companies can create green values, which in turn, are going to serve as a driving force for the environmental industry and environmental technologies, technology development of green products and productivity. A comprehensive approach should be made when it comes to green production and sustainable consumption policy. The focus of the green supply policy should be placed on strengthening a value chain consisting of development assistance of eco-friendly raw materials -> development assistance of eco-friendly technologies -> production support -> eco-friendly distribution support -> support of green marketing and sale. The third lesson that we have learnt is that there should be IT-based policy measures to support the initiative. All of the policies and public service should be able to provide easy access to the general public who are the actual recipients and supposed to benefit from them. Recently, with the advancement in the ICT industry, it has become easier to promote new policies and listen to what the pubic have to say by using electronic gadgets such as PCs and smartphones. As for the green production and consumption, it is also able to take advantage of websites and mobile applications to provide information and get people involved in the system. Now, going beyond simple information provision, we have established the CRM system designed to make predictions about what consumers want and to analyze green consumption, which will be then reflected in decision-making. In an attempt to further facilitate global green production and sustainable consumption, efforts should be made to strengthen international cooperation, which involves assisting developing countries in adopting an eco-labelling system and green purchase system. At Rio+20 held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in Jun. 2012, the Sustainable Product Procurement Initiatives driven by the UNEP and ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives) were launched. In 2013, the establishment of a website for the APEC-VC(APEC Virtual Center for Environmental Technology Exchange) Gateway in which the APEC will invest 70,000 dollars is expected to serve as a hub for the exchange of environmental technologies and environmental product information between APEC member nations. Accordingly, by actively engaging in such international initiatives, we need to make the most of these opportunities to showcase Korea’s green purchase achievements to the world while at the same time, reaching out a hand to neighboring countries in need of help.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute
Institution Type:   Public Organization  
Contact Person:   Jinseon Yim
Title:   Researcher  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-380-0569
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   jsyim@keiti.re.kr  
Address:   215, Jinheung-ro, Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, Korea
Postal Code:   122-706
City:   Seoul

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