Effective carbon labels can empower consumers to make low carbon choices and reduce their carbon footprint.
12 August 2020
  • Consumer Information for SCP

Top four insights:

  • Carbon labels have the potential to guide consumer choices towards low carbon products 
  • A functional carbon label should highlight tangible benefits to consumers
  • A clear and visually appealing design increases the effectiveness of carbon labels
  • Carbon labels can help businesses to measure and improve their performance and meet consumer expectations

The Importance of Carbon Labels to Guide Consumer Choices

Product carbon footprint certification and labelling can be used to guide consumer choices. They rely on persuasive communication and seek to incentivise consumption of lower carbon options in products and services. As carbon labels are designed to focus on energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases, consumers can learn to distinguish and compare different products in terms of their overall climate impact.

Persuasive Communication through Consumer Information Tools

To effectively persuade consumers and influence low-carbon choices, consumer information tools, such as carbon labels, should consider three dimensions:
Factual, procedural and effectiveness knowledge – explain the problem, how it can be addressed and what difference consumer behaviour will make. In the case of carbon labels, this may include a clear visualisation of the problem like displaying amounts of emissions associated with the purchase and/or use of a product or service.
Appeals to cognitive, experiential and normative dimensions of behaviour – are indications of a positive expectation of behaviour in line with what the majority of society does. Carbon labels should be designed in such way that a low level of carbon emissions is directly and visually associated with a positive outcome.
Consideration of injunctive norms – means that a behaviour is commonly approved and perceived morally right. Using carbon labels more widely can help reinforce that low carbon consumption choices are perceived morally right and thus help establish it as a social norm.

How to Design a Good Carbon Label

Carbon labels must provide information that is clear, relevant and reliable. Carbon labels are more effective if they are comparable, thus, common standards that define system boundaries must be developed. The design of carbon labels plays an important role: it should be functional, visually attractive and easy to understand. This can be done by including colour schemes with a clear directive, for example, red signalling “bad for the environment” and green signalling “good for the environment”. 
Advantages for Businesses to Use Carbon Labels
Carbon labels can help businesses to benchmark their products or services and improve their performance. They can also help businesses to understand where they waste resources. On top of that, carbon labels help to meet consumers expectations by showing corporate engagement in mitigating climate change, while consumers might also perceive carbon labels as a quality standard. 


To learn more about the power of carbon labels, download our infographic!
The Consumer Information programme has prepared six infographics which summarise some of the key findings of the report “Consumer Information Tools and Climate Change – Facilitating low-carbon choices in Tourism, Buildings and Food Systems” related to different topics. Share these infographics to promote the findings of the report and help us spread the word!

The Report

The report is an output of the Consumer Information programme of the One Planet network and was developed through a collaborative effort among the Consumer Information, Sustainable Buildings & Constructions, Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Tourism programmes. The effort was led by the United Nations Environment Programme.
The report details how the use of consumer information tools can support greenhouse gas emission reductions in three sectors – Tourism, Buildings and Food. It serves as a guidance for policy makers and business leaders.

You can download the full version of the report here.

  • Consumer Information for SCP
Certification, Climate Change, Consumer goods, Eco-labels, Food, Lifestyles, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)