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Europeans overwhelmingly consider the environmental impact of products they buy

European Commission - IP/09/1201   29/07/2009

Other available languages: FR DE DA ES NL IT SV PT FI EL CS ET HU LT LV MT PL SK SL BG RO

IP/09/1201

Brussels, 29 July 2009

Europeans overwhelmingly consider the environmental impact of products they buy

Four out of five Europeans say that they consider the environmental impact of the products they buy reveals a Eurobarometer survey published today. Environmental consideration was highest in Greece where more than 9 in 10 of those surveyed said the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions. In the same survey Europeans were evenly divided about claims by producers on the environmental performance of their products while nearly half thought that a combination of increased taxes on environmentally-damaging products and decreased taxes on environmentally-friendly products would best promote eco-friendly products. There was also strong support for retailers to play a role in promoting environmentally-friendly products and for mandatory carbon labelling.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The battle against climate change must be fought on all fronts and everyone must contribute. It is not only the remit of companies and governments; consumers also have their part to play. By purchasing environmentally and climate-friendly products individual customers send the right signal to producers who respond in turn by producing more eco-friendly products."

Impact of products on the environment important

In the Eurobarometer survey published today on Europeans' attitude towards sustainable consumption and production, an overwhelming majority of Europeans (83%) said the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions. With 92% in favour Greeks were more likely to consider the environmental impact of the products they buy while the Czechs were the least likely (62%).

Mixed views on claims by companies on the environmental performance of their products

Europeans surveyed were evenly divided about claims by producers about the environmental performance of their products with 49% trusting the claims and 48% not trusting such claims. The Dutch were more likely to trust these claims (78%) while Bulgarians were the least likely (26%).

Higher taxes on environmentally-damaging products and lower taxes on environmentally-friendly products

Some 46% of EU citizens also thought that the best way to promote environmentally-friendly products would be to increase taxes on environmentally-damaging products and decrease taxes on environmentally-friendly products. Britons were most in favour of such a double taxation system while the Maltese much less so (28%) preferring instead reducing taxes on environmentally-friendly products only.

The important role of retailers in promoting environmentally-friendly products

Those surveyed were strongly in favour of retailers promoting environmentally-friendly products. Approximately half of EU citizens (49%) thought that they should increase the visibility of such products on their shelves or have a dedicated green corner in their store. A third (31%) of Europeans said that the best way for retailers to promote green products is for them to provide better information to consumers.

Strong support for carbon footprint labels

Despite just under half of Europeans saying that ecolabels play an important role in their purchasing decisions and only 1 in 10 saying the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by a product should feature on environmental labels, some 72% of EU citizens thought that a label indicating a product's carbon footprint should be mandatory in the future. Attitudes on the subject varied widely between Member States with the Czechs the least in favour of such labelling (47%) and Greeks wholeheartedly behind the idea with 90% in favour.

A carbon footprint label would show the total amount of greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide – emitted during its lifetime, from production to disposal. At present no such scheme exists Europe-wide, but at the December 2008 Environment Council ministers invited the Commission to study the introduction of carbon footprint labelling.

Background: EU Action Plan on sustainable consumption and production

In July 2008 the Commission presented an action plan which includes a series of proposals on sustainable consumption and production that will contribute to improve the environmental performance of products and increase the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies. It also seeks to encourage EU industry to take advantage of opportunities to innovate.

More information

Sustainable consumption and production web pages:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/escp_en.htm


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