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Ecolabel's role in informing sustainable consumption: A naturalistic decision making study using eye tracking glasses

Song, Li, Lim, Yechan, Chang, Pengyu, Guo, Yingnan, Zhang, Mingyu, Wang, Xi, Yu, Xueying, Lehto, Mark R., Cai, Hua
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.218 pp. 685-695
consumer behavior, consumption (economics), data collection, decision making, ecolabeling, nutrition, prices, surveys
While ecolabels are increasingly used for different products, their effectiveness in informing consumers on choosing environmentally-friendly products is still unclear. Existing research using surveys or choice experiments in the lab environment may not be able to capture actual consumer behaviors and preferences. This study examines the effectiveness of ecolabels in informing sustainable consumption by using data collected from 156 participants in the naturalistic shopping environment using eye tracking glasses. Our results show that: 1) USDA Organic and NON GMO were the two most frequently identified ecolabels on the purchased products; 2) a majority of the participants (54%) did not evaluate any product information at all for any of the items they purchased, while only 10% of the products purchased from all participants were evaluated, which indicates that most of the products were purchased through habitual shopping; 3) consumers' revealed preferences of ecolabeled products (through purchase actions) were lower than the stated preferences (through survey or hypothetical choice experiments); and 4) competing with other product information, ecolabels received little attention and awareness from consumers. Potential ways to help improve the effectiveness of ecolabels in promoting sustainable consumption include: 1) educating consumers on the presence and meaning of ecolabels to help establish ecolabeled products as parts of the habitual shopping products; and 2) leveraging consumers’ attentions to other product information (e.g., price, nutrition table) to help increase the visibility of ecolabels.