Expanding the evidence base for consumer policies
The goal of the study “Expanding the evidence base for consumer policies” is to contribute to the understanding of consumer behaviour and to how policies might best be designed to influence choice regarding environmental products and services. The study draws on knowledge from the field of behavioural economics and develops a series of hypotheses relating to consumer choice in regard to environmental goods and services. In addition, a blueprint to assess consumer policies is established.
Much of consumer-oriented policy has been designed based on the assumption that consumers make purchasing decisions in a rational way. Although rational choice has served well as a working model to explain observed responses to policy, it does not completely explain the motivations that drive consumer behaviour. Therefore it is essential to the development of consumer policies aimed at influencing consumer choice that the base of scientific evidence be expanded and analysed.
The primary goal of the study is to make information relating to the drivers of consumer choice available to EU and Member State policy makers and to encourage further research. In particular, the study aims to provide valuable insight into how policies can be effectively designed to stimulate increased uptake of less-environmentally damaging goods and services. The study focuses on the information needed for the optimal design of financial and fiscal incentives and disincentives, product or service labelling, information provision or information-based marketing, as well as the combination of these measures.
One of the first goals of the study is to use existing knowledge to form hypotheses on consumer response to policies and to identify the most important drivers regarding consumer behaviour. Additionally, the study seeks to determine where existing knowledge is insufficient and further research is required. Another element of the study is the design of experiments to provide information on drivers of consumer response. Ideally, the experiments will promote and also enable further research into the area of consumer response to policy. Furthermore, a blueprint to evaluate consumer policies, which can be applied to past or existing policies, has been designed to provide in-depth information on consumer response. Finally, one experiment, designed within the study, shall be conducted to gather information for use in policy development but also to highlight possibilities for future research in the field. Moreover, the study as a whole aims to raise interest in consumer policy research in regard to environmental products and services and encourage additional work in the field.
Ecologic Institutes role:
Ecologic Institute contributes to the study by designing an evaluation methodology to collect information on consumer response to policies. The proposed methodology aims to raise awareness about how policy evaluation contributes to the better understanding of consumer behaviour, by not only assessing the outcomes of policies but also looking at the drivers for specific consumer responses.
Keywords: Consumer policy, consumer choice, behavioural economics, policy evaluation, sustainability, Europe
Sponsor: European Commission, DG Environment
Partners: Bio Intelligence Service (BIO), Policy Studies Institute (PSI)
Team: Max Grünig, Benjamin Boteler, Zoë Robaey
Duration: 11 December 2009 until 11 October 2010
Project number: 2330