RUDN University economists have found out how consumers feel about ecolabeling in Russia. It turned out that consumers do not pay attention to eco-labels, and manufacturers mislead them, so in Russia ecolabeling does not contribute to the sustainable development of the economy. Economists have suggested using a smartphone app to help buyers verify the authenticity of eco-stamps. The results are published in Sustainability.

Newswise — An important step to reduce environmental pollution is conscious consumption. The consumers must understand what they are acquiring and what consequences it will have for the environment. For this purpose, ecolabeling has been introduced all over the world — a special mark on the product, which guarantees that all stages of its production and use are ecologically safe. It is assumed that ecolabeling helps to achieve sustainable economic development along with taxes and other tools. Ecolabels are available in almost all countries, but often they are not supported by legislation, are not reliable, and sometimes even deceive the consumer. For example, in Russia, ecolabeling is fixed only in several GOST’s (national versions of international standards ISO). In addition, consumers mostly do not understand ecolabeling, do not pay attention to it or do not know how to use it.

" Ecolabeling increases consumer awareness and leads to the emergence of new environmentally friendly goods, technologies and production systems. In practice, the abundance of labels and environmental declarations can reduce the understanding of the fundamental differences between products and create barriers to trust in the information provided. In Russia, inaccurate information on the environmental properties of goods and services is still not recognized. As far as we know, there have been no empirical studies of environmental ecolabeling as an instrument of sustainable development policy in Russia," said Konstantin Gomonov, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of Economic and Mathematical Modeling of the RUDN University.

RUDN University economists have found out how consumers feel about ecolabeling in Russia, what they know about it and how they use it. To do this, the researchers interviewed 250 people. Then the economists studied how the manufacturers themselves label their goods by examining the products in several popular chain supermarkets.

Among the surveyed consumers, 42% were familiar with the ecolabeling system. In Europe, this value reaches 50-60%. However, when buying, Russians do not pay attention to it. So manufacturers do not have the proper incentive. Researchers from the RUDN University also found an unfair attitude of manufacturers to ecolabeling, so-called greenwashing. This means either a direct forgery of ecolabels, or the use of inscriptions "eco", "bio", "organic" and others, as well as pictures and symbols that mislead the consumer.

To improve the situation, the RUDN University economists proposed to develop an application for smartphones that would help users recognize ecolabeling and take it into account when choosing goods.

"Consumers need to be better educated in ecolabels. However, instead of proposing distributing educational materials, we suggest developing smartphone applications that allow buyers to check the compliance of ecolabels on a product with ISO standards directly during the shopping process. We consider this approach as a cost-effective and straightforward way to simultaneously raise consumer awareness of ecolabeling and reduce the likelihood of greenwashing," said Svetlana Revinova, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of Economic and Mathematical Modeling of the RUDN.

Journal Link: Sustainability 2021, 13(17)