“Green” Demand

traffic lightsA wide variety of product eco-labels and corporate green ratings exist in today’s marketplace.  What types of these initiatives do consumers and citizens actually prefer?  To address this question, this paper presents data from an online survey of over 500 individuals, which differs from past surveys in its comprehensive scope and multi-methods approach to identifying attribute preferences.  The survey included three exercises using Likert scales, Maximum Difference (MaxDiff) questions, and Adaptive Conjoint Analysis (ACA) to elicit respondent’s opinions about the types of methods, content, and organizational affiliations associated with eco-labels and sustainability ratings.  The survey provides important insights on the public’s preferences for different types of eco-labels, green ratings, and other forms of information-based environmental governance.

The first of these insights is that the credibility of the methods used in creating product eco-labels and corporate green ratings is more important than either the trustworthiness of the organizations behind them or the importance of the issues they cover.  The second is that transparency and independence – both of which are associated with methodological credibility – are the most preferred of 32 characteristics of eco-labels and green ratings.  The paper also demonstrates that while organizational trustworthiness as a general concept is more important than issue importance to the survey’s respondents, once specific types of organizations are mentioned (government agencies, non-profit organizations, etc.) the organizational background of an initiative becomes less important.  But once specific environmental issues, such as climate change or pollution are mentioned, they become more important than the involvement of any particular organizational type.  Considered as a group, these “public goods” issues also have higher levels of importance than “private goods” issues, which include cost, health, and product quality.

While these preferences differed slightly for some demographic sub-groups, on the whole they are remarkably consistent across the survey sample.  The paper presents a range of other results related to this topic, and concludes with a discussion of their implications for the future development of environmental certification and rating programs.

Researchers Involved in this Project: Graham Bullock