Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eco-Label Challenge #2: Low Awareness and Recognition among Many Consumers

Some eco-labels such as USDA Organic or Energy Star have acquired widespread recognition and have become household names. However, most eco-labeling schemes suffer from lack of consumer awareness. In fact, one study found that found that consumer awareness is lower than twenty percent for non-major NGO labels (Sullivan, 2010). Since eco-labels are often very simply designed and contain little or no explanatory text, consumers must be able to recognize them in order to know what environmental accolades they verify. The abundance of eco-labels makes this incredibly confusing and difficult. There are simply too many labels and designs in use today for the average consumer to have knowledge of them all.

When you consider what the average eco-label looks like to consumers, it becomes increasingly evident that this lack of awareness is a major issue. For instance, the Leaping Bunny Cruelty-Free label is merely a picture of a jumping rabbit (Leaping Bunny, 2009). Consumers are expected to understand that the placement of such label on cosmetic and household products assures that no animal testing is used in any phase of product development by the company, its laboratories, or suppliers. However, the picture used is vague and does not directly communicate the product’s benefits. Unfortunately, consumers will likely just ignore the presence of the label altogether if they cannot decipher its meaning.

This problem of lack of recognition is intensified by the fact that retailers such as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are developing their own labeling schemes for use on the products they sell, adding a whole new slew of eco-labels to the already massive assortment (Bogdan, 2010). Considering that most consumers take only a few seconds to make purchasing decisions regarding household items, this is a serious downfall to eco-labels on a whole. Consumers will not spend extra time questioning the meaning of a label they do not recognize, and therefore eco-labels are unable to meet their objectives. This apparent lack of market penetration for any single eco-label is a serious problem for eco-labels to overcome.


Sullivan, R. (2010). What’s in a label? ECOS, 20, p. 156-157.

Leaping Bunny. (2010). What is the leaping bunny label? http://www.leapingbunny.org/logo.php.

Bogdan, L. (2010). Eco labels 101: green certifications explained! Retrieved from http://inhabitat.com/demystifying-eco-labels/.

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