How Can Sustainability Labels Work More Effectively?

Even though the interest in sustainability is on the rise, most labels – represeting environmental and social standards – and their underlying criteria are widely unknown. The CSCP partnered with Verbraucher Initiative and Wuppertal Institute to support the German government in raising awareness for their meta label platform Siegelklarheit.

A label for the labels?

Labels are an efficient shortcut for consumers to search for products and production practices that go beyond and above legal requirements. However, their sheer number and complexity of criteria causes in itself a communication challenge. Siegelklahrheit, an initiative of the German government, has been established a couple of years ago to shed light on the social and environmental ambition of labelling schemes as well as the robustness and trustworthiness of the underlying standard. Supported by the GIZ and the International Trade Centre (ITC) with its Standards Map, great progress has been made in product categories such as textiles, detergent and paper where minimum criteria were defined in a multi stakeholder process. Based on that, sustainability labels are assessed as being a “good choice” (meeting all minimum requirements) or a “very good choice” (meeting all minimum requirements and beyond).

Consumers are not interested in labels, but in sustainable products!

While analyzing the current website and communication approach of Siegelklarheit we developed strategies to increase its visitor numbers, improve userability as well as add relevant content. We went to sustainability-oriented events and fairs to exchange with consumers and learn about their needs as well as their current understanding and use of labels. Some needs were implemented right away, others will take more time. Here a few ideas and learnings:

  • Create a (digital) one-stop shop for interested users: While Siegelklarheit offers in-depths assessment of sustainability labels, other leading platforms such as cover the full range of labels and certificates. Combining both services in some way would enable a better user-experience when needing buying guidance.
  • Strengthen sustainable consumption through education: The project team developed education material – such as interactive teaching units for different ages – and compiled links to helpful external content.
  • Communicate in relevant user contexts: Instead of promoting the Siegelklarheit portal as such, we concentrated on providing seasonal and product-related sustainable consumption guidance that included Siegelklarheit as supporting tool.
  • Design the content from the user needs: Based on user feedback we redesigned the website (which is not yet online) to cater to the different audiences, like consumers, educators and also retailers or producers that seek cooperation. We also focussed on visualizing the entire scope of labels and information available on one page with various options to filter the relevant labels.

Going to the next level

With the measures we have taken we were able to double the number of visitors of in the course of one year.

In March, the CSCP has been elected as members of the EU Ecolabelling Board. We will continue to drive the sustainable consumption agenda in a number of areas and invite all interested parties to engage with us on the topic!

Please contact Stephan Schaller for further questions.