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Project Launch: Communicating Food Sustainability to Consumers

  • Published on September 29, 2021

UNEP and WWF have joined forces to support the development of effective food sustainability information tools, by documenting and disseminating best practices in communicating the sustainability credentials of food products to consumers.

Consumer behaviour around the world is changing, partly due to underlying demographic, economic and technological trends, and partly as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. This is also true when it comes to grocery shopping. According to one recent study, the Covid pandemic has accelerated consumers’ concerns about ‘ethical consumption’, and trends like buying more sustainable or ‘buy local’. With consumer behaviours in flux, it is important to understand which are the main drivers of food preferences and how businesses, regulators and standards/labels can help inform and guide consumer choice. Even if the pandemic turns out to be a temporary influence, environmental and other sustainability issues remain a priority for many people.

 There are many influences on consumers’ food choices, including availability, tradition, price and presentation, as well as fashion, advice from family and friends, advertising and retail promotions, inspiration from media, social media and internet sources. Information about the sustainability of the food we eat is just one of many drivers of consumer behaviour.

 The UNEP joined forces with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in September 2021 to understand how the provision of sustainability information can influence consumers’ food choices. As noted by the WWF project lead, Dr Joshua Bishop, “promoting sustainable food is social marketing; if we want wider adoption of sustainable diets, then how we communicate is just as important as what we communicate.”

 The research project will provide a review of existing literature on consumer awareness, attitudes, and preferences, and key information sources, in relation to the sustainability of their food purchasing decisions, with particular attention to product-level sustainability information and the use of behavioural drivers. The work will examine the overall drivers of trends in consumer food choices, with a focus on sustainability and variation across different groups awareness, attitudes, and preferences, before turning to the experience and effectiveness of food eco-labels and other consumer sustainability information tools in influencing consumer food choices. Selected business case studies will provide further insights on consumer concerns and responses to provision of food sustainability information, and how such information is integrated in companies’ marketing campaigns.

 

Want to contribute to our project on communicating food sustainability to consumers?

You are working for a food sustainability label or for a food brand/retailer, or an organisation working on consumer communication or have other expertise around behaviour change and are interested in contributing to our work? Why not join our Food Task Force and have your say?

Please contact the Consumer Information Programme coordination desk via ciscp@un.org for more information!

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