BRUSSELS – There is a forgotten player in the global efforts to limit CO2 emissions: the consumer. Households consume one third of the final energy used in the European Union and produce around two-thirds of municipal waste. Moreover, food and beverages, housing, and private transport account for almost 80% of environmental pressures. So the potential of consumers to make a real difference when it comes to fighting climate change should not be wasted.
Several factors can direct consumers towards more environmentally friendly behavior. To achieve this, however, we need clear and simple information to guide consumption decisions. Yet, despite strong demand, we are far from providing accessible information on products’ environmental impact of each. Indeed, two-thirds of consumers find it difficult to understand which products are better for the environment, and 29% never look for environmental information when shopping.
Companies face a problem of trust: with 58% of Europeans believing that many companies pretend to be green in order to charge higher prices, industry has a long way to go in helping consumers feel confident when making green choices. This is why I believe that companies should find ways to give consumers more information about the carbon footprint of their products, and to promote more sustainable behavior among their customers.
To be sure, companies are increasingly creating product labels that help consumers make responsible choices – for instance, alerting users to products made from materials that are recycled, renewable, and/or less carbon-intensive. Even so, only 20% of Europeans believe that companies are doing enough to promote environmentally friendly options.