The Impact of Sustainability Information on Consumer Decision Making


Abraham Ringer, Dara O'Rourke


attitudes-behavior gap, behavior change, consumers, decision making, eco-labels, industrial ecology, product labels, sustainability information, sustainability labels, web-based purchasing


Journal of Industrial Ecology

Year Published:


Policy Summary

The study analyzed the influence of environmental, social, and health ratings of products on consumer behavior and purchases made online at (sample size: 41,398). The research found that labels have different effects on different people, broadly grouped into two groups. People that are already aware of sustainable products are more likely to buy a product on if it appears with higher sustainability scores. High health sustainability scores result in the highest likelihood of shoppers purchasing that product (vs. environment or social sustainability scores). People that did not intend to shop on, but were redirected there through some internet link were not affected by sustainable labels in any of their purchasing decisions. The authors hypothesize that positive health scores on the website help reinforce a purchasers pre-existing decision to want to buy that product, while a low health score does not have strong enough influence to deflect a person from purchasing that item. Discretionary product purchases are more likely to be influenced by sustainability labels, while necessary purchases are less likely because of an internalized focus on buying a product that you know will do the job you need it to do. The authors highlight the importance of this research in public policy decisions on product labels.