Recent research work carried out at the Trollhättan/Uddevalla University College in Sweden suggests that, although consumers feel a commitment towards the environment, this is not enough to make them choose eco-labelled food products.
According to research by researcher Gunne Grankvist at Trollhättan/Uddevalla University College, products that are eco-marked are chosen primarily by those who are 'already converted.' On the other hand, negative eco-labelling, which does not exist today, could persuade consumers across the board to avoid those products that are most harmful to the environment. Grankvist drew his conclusions following research work for a doctoral dissertation in psychology at the Trollhättan/Uddevalla University College.
His research targets attitudes and values from a psychological perspective, with a special focus on people's feelings about eco-labelling. The study also closely considered the connection between people's opinions and their behaviour.
The results of his study indicate that positive labelling (that is, that the product is better than other similar products with regard to environmental impact) functions best for those who are already convinced of the importance of environmental issues. Those who choose environmentally labelled alternatives of foods like milk, bread, meat, and potatoes place greater emphasis on the purchase criterion 'good for the environment' and 'good for your own health.' The more often a consumer chooses environmentally friendly products, the greater the commitment he or she feels. These consumers also have more favourable opinions about other features of eco-labelled products, such as their taste.
Gunne Grankvist's research also shows that negative labelling, which signals that a product 'is worse than average with regard to environmental impact,' would prompt a larger group of consumers to take action. "In general people react more towards negative information than positive," said Gunne Grankvist. "There is great potential in this labelling that is not made use of today, to get more consumers to choose products that are the least harmful to the environment. However, the question is whether negative eco-labelling is possible. That is a political issue."
Gunne Grankvist's dissertation, entitled Determinants of Choice of Eco-Labeled Products,is part of a multidisciplinary research project on sustainable production of foodstuffs.