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While Ontarians' green good consumption up, Ontarians don't recognize eco-labels


Ontarians have increased their consumption of green goods and services in the past year, but are still largely unable to recognize eco-labels and don’t place much stock in environmentally oriented advertising.

According to the Responsible Consumption Observatory’s new Ontario Responsible Consumption Index (ORCI), nearly half (46 per cent) of Ontarians have increased their consumption of green goods and services in the past year, while 53 per cent have occasionally switched brands because of environmental convictions.

However, the study also found that less than a third (28 per cent) recognize Environment Canada’s official eco-label, EcoLogo (just three of the 32 eco-labels surveyed were recognized by more than 50 per cent of consumers) and only 30 per cent believe environmentally oriented advertising.

Overall, Ontario received an average score of 68.9 out of 100 for the responsible consumption behaviours tested by the ORCI (Quebec, where the study originated, scored 62.4 in 2011). The findings are based on an e-mail survey of 1,050 people.

“The motivations are higher and the impediments less in Ontario,” said Fabien Durif, director of the Responsible Consumption Observator and a professor at the Université du Québec’s School of Management.

This is the first year the RCO has conducted the ORCI, and the findings revealed markedly different attitudes towards so-called “responsible behaviours” between the two provinces.

While both Ontarians and Quebeckers listed recycling as the most important responsible behaviour, for example, Quebeckers placed local consumption – which was the subject of a major consumer outreach program this year – second, while Ontarians ranked it fifth.

The study found that fresh and local fruit and vegetables are the most “responsible” products purchased by Ontarians, followed by organic and fair-trade products. Women, followed by couples with children and older Ontarians, tended to be most concerned about local consumption.

However, Durif said there remains a significant gap between what consumers say and how they behave in a retail environment, particularly if the price of green or responsible products is too high or if there is a lack of available information.

There have also been shifts within the responsible consumption movement, said Durif.

Where 10 years ago there was an emphasis on fair-trade products, for example, they has been superseded in recent years by “green” products.

The green and local consumption movements will be key trends in the near term, said Durif.

Retailers can benefit from the trend, said Durif, by increasing and differentiating sections such as local products, organic and fair-trade and providing information.

The ORCI found that 46 per cent of people said there were not enough ethical goods/services to choose from, while 36 per cent said they had to search multiple stores to find such products; and 32 per cent said they were not readily recognizable. Ontarians first turned to product packaging to discover characteristics of responsible products.

The study also found “generally poor” knowledge of responsible brands.

Asked to identify the brand or company they thought was responsible, more than half of respondents – 53 per cent for brands and 55 per cent for companies – were unable to provide an answer.

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