The research published in Appetite said it found different groups of people thought differently about environmental food policies and buying eco-friendly foods. Based on its findings, the team suggested ways in which pro-environmental communications could be used most effectively for consumers.
“The findings have several implications for the promotion of pro environmental policies among the public,” said Professor Anthony Worsley the lead author of the study.
The team examined 2204 Australian adults to understand their views on environmental food policies and intentions for buying eco-friendly foods. Results showed 50% to 78% of the participants supported environmental food policies while 51% to 69% supported the idea of buying eco-friendly food purchases.
The participants support for environmental food policies stemmed from their concern for the environment, universalism (concern for others without allegiances) and regulatory issues while their intentions to buy eco-friendly foods were linked to concerns about nutrition, environment, food safety, animal welfare, female gender and education.
“Our task is not so much to persuade people to do what we researchers and policy makers want them to do, but rather to facilitate their attempts to convert their positive attitudes into daily habits,” the team added.
For example, people who advocate concern for others without national or other allegiances could be more receptive to messages about environmental concerns and appeals to support policies and eco-friendly buys.
Similarly, people who held concerns about food safety or animal welfare could be quickly identified though a simplified scale developed in the study and sent eco-friendly communications.
“The findings suggest that slower forms of pro-environmental communication may influence the populations’ stance towards environmental issues,” said the team.
Issues over food security
While support for eco-friendly food policy was increased when participants were asked to think about the environment and food in general, support for these policies fell by more than a third when consumers were asked to think about food security.
This negative relationship between concern for food security issues and falling support for environmental food policy did appear contradictory at first glance, however, the authors noted that food security issues are about concrete examples of human deprivation (such as people who do not have enough to eat) which can contradict certain environmental policies that are more abstract (like legislation to protect farmland).
“This suggested that concerns expressed about social issues could not be taken as support for changes in broader food policies.
“Consumer support for pro environmental food policies and food purchasing are important for the adoption of successful environmental policies,” said the team.
“Food concerns and support for environmental food policies and purchasing”
Authors: Anthony Worsley, et al