Can the provision of energy and resource efficiency information influence what consumers buy? A review of the evidence

Fiona Brocklehurst, Catriona McAlister, Colin Whittle, Lorraine Whitmarsh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

A wide range of information, including energy labels, eco-labels, and procurement guidance, are provided to encourage individuals and organisations to buy more sustainable goods. An understanding of the most successful approaches can enable more effective labelling approaches to support greater energy efficiency and the circular economy. This paper presents some results from research for Defra (the UK Government's Environment department) and WRAP1 investigating how the provision of factual information about the environmental impact of a product influences more sustainable purchasing. The core of the research was a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA), developing and applying a formal research protocol in order to make the process as objective, robust and transparent as possible. The full REA covers a wide range of environmental aspects (energy use; carbon footprint; sustainability; lifecycle impact; water use; reparability and durability) and products (electrical appliances; vehicles; buildings; textiles and clothing, paper and wood products, cleaning/home chemical and cosmetic products). This paper presents an overview of the REA methodology and an outline of some of the results and conclusions. It then focuses on the findings of four studies on the effect of provision of information on different non-energy sustainability aspects for energy using products. Information on a range of sustainability impacts were found to be effective, for audiences in Europe and Asia, across an assortment of products, for most products. Further, this focused investigation supports some of the specific conclusions of the broader REA - namely that: • not all sustainability impacts are equal in the minds of consumers; so a positive response to information on one impact may not guarantee a similar response to information on another. • information on the same sustainability impact may be perceived differently depending on the product. The recommendation is that further research will be needed to systematically test information across a range of products and consumer groups to determine which aspect of environmental sustainability will be most effective for which product and for which consumer group. Also testing aspects of environmental sustainability that are clear in their focus will help with comparability of effects between different studies and give an improved understanding of what sustainability aspect participants are responding to.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECEEE 2019 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency
Subtitle of host publicationIs Efficient Sufficient?
PublisherEuropean Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
Pages1621-1630
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9789198387841
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Event2019 ECEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency: Is Efficient Sufficient? - Presqu'ile de Giens, France
Duration: 3 Jun 20198 Jun 2019

Publication series

NameEceee Summer Study Proceedings
Volume2019-June
ISSN (Print)1653-7025
ISSN (Electronic)2001-7960

Conference

Conference2019 ECEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency: Is Efficient Sufficient?
CountryFrance
CityPresqu'ile de Giens
Period3/06/198/06/19

Keywords

  • Rapid evidence assessment
  • Resource efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

Cite this

Brocklehurst, F., McAlister, C., Whittle, C., & Whitmarsh, L. (2019). Can the provision of energy and resource efficiency information influence what consumers buy? A review of the evidence. In ECEEE 2019 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency: Is Efficient Sufficient? (pp. 1621-1630). (Eceee Summer Study Proceedings; Vol. 2019-June). European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.