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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Environment Canada’s environmental choice program (ECP) : using information about the way consumers think about the ecologo to increase the program’s utility for consumers Bartman, Celeste Camille

Abstract

Environment Canada's Environmental Choice Program (ECP) was officially announced in June of 1988. Its purpose is to help consumers find products and services that reduce the burden on the environment. Companies can apply to have a product certified with the EcoLogo where appropriate guidelines exist. The EcoLogo symbol takes the form of three doves intertwined into a maple leaf with the accompanying words: "Environmental Choice". A 1994 poll conducted for the ECP found that only 37% of Canadians have some level of either aided or unaided awareness of the EcoLogo (Environics Research Group Limited, p.10). The purpose of this thesis is to investigate how consumers think about and respond to the EcoLogo in the hope that the insights gained will be used to tailor the program to better inform consumers. Specifically, answers are sought to three research questions: 1) are there any consumer characteristics that help explain low recognition of the EcoLogo, 2) what is consumer understanding of the EcoLogo, EcoLogo products and the EcoLogo Program, and 3) what do consumers need to make the EcoLogo program a credible source of environmental information to act on. The methods used to investigate this topic included two focus groups, forty structured interviews, inquiries to relevant programs and a library search. Three consumer traits were found to be impediments to consumer recognition of the EcoLogo: the frequency with which consumers comparison shop, the detail to which consumers read product labels, and overriding consideration for non-ecological product traits. Consumers understand the EcoLogo represents a connection with the environment; however, they lack the knowledge that the Canadian government is responsible for the EcoLogo. Consumers need additional help in three areas: understanding the environmental information found on products, accessing information that gives the EcoLogo credibility, and accessing information about quality, performance and safety of EcoLogo products. These are referred to as "unheard messages". A three step recommendation process i s made to the ECP. First, licensees should be informed of all relevant research results. Second, the EcoLogo should be made more prominent on products. Third, additional efforts should be made to communicate the three unheard messages.

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