According to a new survey, most Europeans would be prepared to change their purchasing habits and buy more environmentally-friendly products, but many feel they lack information and distrust manufacturers’ environmental claims. The survey on the “Attitudes of Europeans towards building the single market for green products” indicates that more than three-quarters of respondents are willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products if they were confident that the products are truly environmentally-friendly (77%). However, only slightly more than half of EU citizens feel informed (55%) about the environmental impacts of the products they buy and use.
A large majority of EU citizens believes that buying environmentally-friendly products can make a difference to the environment (89%) and that they are as effective as regular products (74%). Confidence that products labelled environmentally-friendly are less harmful to the environment is highest in Portugal (84%), Malta (82%), France (81%) and Belgium (81%). However, confidence is significantly lower in Germany (44%), Romania (46%) and the Netherlands (47%).
Just over half of EU citizens generally trust producers’ claims about the environmental performance of their products (52%), but a majority of Europeans do not trust companies’ reports on their own environmental performance (54%). EU citizens are most likely to believe that they have come across exaggerated or misleading statements in Romania (40%), Bulgaria (40%), Greece (39%) and Latvia (37%). This belief is least common in Malta (17%) and Estonia (20%). There is nonetheless strong support for obliging companies to publish reports on their overall environmental performance and the environmental performance of their products (69%).
Across the EU, two thirds of people (66%) would be willing to pay more for a product if its guarantee of reliability was extended to five years. More than nine out of ten respondents also think the expected lifespan of products should be indicated (92%). Almost half of all respondents had decided not to have a faulty product repaired in the past 12 months because the repair costs were too high (47%).
A considerable proportion of respondents believe that it is not safe to consume food products after its “best before” date (45%). This means that large amounts of edible food are wasted or thrown away every day. More than three quarters of citizens in Sweden (81%), Austria (77%) and the United Kingdom (77%) believe that it is safe to consume food products after the “best before” date stated on the label. This view is shared by fewer than one in five citizens in Romania (14%) andLithuania (17%).
Companies wanting to highlight the environmental performance of their products face numerous obstacles. They are confronted with several different methods promoted by governments and private initiatives, and they are therefore obliged to pay multiple costs for providing environmental information. Consumers are confused by a multitude of different labels with information that makes products difficult to compare.
The Communication on Building the Single Market for Green Products and a Recommendation on the use of EU-harmonised methods, adopted by the Commission in April 2013, launched a pilot scheme in which stakeholders will help develop better ways of measuring environmental impact of products. This should help develop comparable and reliable environmental information, building confidence for consumers, businesses, investors and other stakeholders. Better understanding consumer behaviour and attitudes is a key component to properly implement this new policy initiative.