How to improve consumers' environmental sustainability judgements of foods
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Food production and consumption account for approximately one-third of households' environmental impact. Consumers thus play a major role in the shift towards more sustainable foods and diets. An overall sustainability label or simple guidelines may enable consumers to make more environmentally friendly food choices, but whether such information-based tools improve consumers' ability to choose environmentally sustainable foods has not been empirically investigated. This study's online choice task experiment shows that eco-labels and guidelines marginally increased consumers' accuracy in selecting environmentally friendly foods. Respondents adhered, however, more to guidelines than to eco-labels and led to choices with lower environmental impact. In addition, respondents showed several misconceptions related to the environmental performance of protein products, which were resistant to both eco-labels and guidelines. These findings suggest that new, costly labels may not improve consumers' environmental judgements. Instead, addressing consumers' misconceptions and finding ways to promote environmentally sustainable food purchases is essential.