There are a number of eco-labels in use in the EU. The EU eco-label scheme, the Flower, celebrates its 10 years anniversary in 2002. There are also national schemes, such as the Nordic swan and the German blue angel that have been applied for almost 25 years.
The idea behind eco-labels is that consumers should be able to make informed choices and buy more environmentally friendly products. Eco-labelling is a “market-based instrument” whose primary function is to stimulate the supply and demand of products with a reduced environmental impact.
Despite the fact that eco-labels have been used for a considerable time, a report by the Danish institute of local government studies is one of the first empirical studies to show the relationship between eco-labelling and consumer’s behaviour. Previous studies have mainly concentrated on the consumers’ ability of recognising eco-labels. The Danish study analyses the effect of the Nordic swan on Danish consumers’ decision. It draws the following conclusions:
consumers are willing to pay 10-17% more for eco-labeled toilet paper and detergents;
the market share for the Nordic swan labelled products is estimated to 6-7%;
when there are more sustainable alternatives on the market, as e.g. reusable dishcloths instead of kitchen paper, consumers will not pay extra for eco-labelled products;
consumers have confidence in the label.
The study shows that eco-labels can play a role in consumers’ behaviour. However, the study would have to be reproduced in other countries to prove if the result are valid for the EU in general.