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Green and Simple: Disclosures on Eco-labels Interact with Situational Constraints in Consumer Choice

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“Eco-labels” are intended to provide consumers with important environmental product information. However, it can be difficult for consumers to integrate multiple sources of information into decisions, especially in contexts such as grocery shopping in which consumers must make multiple decisions and juggle priorities, including time. Some disclosures on eco-labels may be easier to incorporate into decisions than others, but how the information is presented varies across countries. This research used a computerized shopping task to test how decisions are affected by the format and framing of eco-labels, including when made under time pressure. Results indicated that participants identified and chose more environmentally friendly products when information was formatted on a standardized, colour-coded scale rather than presented as specific, verbal information. Decisions were unaffected by whether disclosures were framed positively or negatively. The effect of format was enhanced under a time limit. These findings suggest that the context in which eco-labels are encountered influences how effective they are, with standardized, colour-coded scales suitable for communicating with busy consumers.

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  1. This was an active choice made by design. While it would have been possible to analyse responses using an ordinal model based on the environmental ranking of the four products, individual decisions would have been unlikely to satisfy the proportional odds assumption of standard ordinal models. Our approach of generating a score calculated across groups of counterbalanced trials was designed to simplify the statistical analysis and subsequent interpretation.


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The authors are grateful to Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency for funding and support and to members of the ESRI's Behavioural Research Unit for comments on earlier drafts.

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Correspondence to P. D. Lunn.

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Ní Choisdealbha, Á., Lunn, P.D. Green and Simple: Disclosures on Eco-labels Interact with Situational Constraints in Consumer Choice. J Consum Policy 43, 699–722 (2020).

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