Consumers ‘blocking low-carbon economy’

The shift to a low-carbon economy will stall, unless business and government change consumer attitudes to buying greener products and services, the CBI warns

The shift to a low-carbon economy will stall, unless business and government change consumer attitudes to buying greener products and services, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warns.

“Consumers are the Cinderella of the low-carbon economy,” said CBI director general John Cridland, launching a report on the issue in March.1

Only a minority of households seek out low-carbon products and services, argues the CBI. Most companies regard them as a niche market.

The CBI commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out public opinion research using focus groups and a sample of 2,000 adults. This confirmed most care more about price, performance and brand than environmental impacts.

Just under a quarter said energy efficiency was a key factor when they bought a fridge. When it came to buying a house, which uses far more energy, only 9% said efficiency was key.

And while 83% of the public think businesses have a duty to tell their customers about product energy efficiency, only 16% trust manufacturers to be truthful.

The CBI wants sectors to develop better standards and ensure floor staff can give consumers good advice. It also wants mandatory EU energy labelling of products to be extended to more categories, including DVD players, games consoles and cooking appliances.

The CBI is setting up a group of business leaders to consider the issues.

Energy and climate secretary Chris Huhne agreed with the report’s messages.

He advocated moving beyond existing energy rating labels on products. Government wanted to work with electronic appliance makers and retailers on “a simple, consistent, voluntary labelling system setting out products’ real-world energy costs”. Labels should be similar to those found on cars.

But it is the environment department (DEFRA) rather than the energy department (DECC) that leads on policy in this area.

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