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Empowering the Sustainable Online Consumer

In 2022, 62% of consumers say they’re willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact. However, one of the biggest barriers to consumers making sustainable choices is the lack of clear and reliable information on the sustainability impacts of products.  

Sustainability claims are everywhere in e-commerce settings, but they are too often ambiguous, confusing, or even misleading. This has led to low consumer trust in a ‘greenwashed’ online marketplace, preventing sustainable products from reaching the consumers who want them.  

New policy approaches and enhanced stakeholder commitments are needed to create a level playing field in environmental claims and unlock behaviour change for sustainable consumption. 



At COP26, Consumers International and our Members worldwide called for stakeholders to harness the collective power of consumers to accelerate action against climate change 

In 2022, Consumers International is leading a new global project – GreEnCommerce – to grasp this opportunity for change. Implemented in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the GreEnCommerce project will draw on original research and in-depth stakeholder consultations to formulate pioneering global recommendations for policymakers and businesses.  

These will provide clear, evidenced pathways that stakeholders can act on to make sustainable choices easier for consumers online. 

What we’ve found

  1. More laws and policies have been developed worldwide to address sustainable production compared to sustainable consumption. 
  2. There is no horizontal legislation imposing mandatory requirements to disclose product sustainability information in a cross-cutting manner (integrating economic, environmental, and social elements). 
  3. The number of green claims made to consumers online has reached unprecedented levels, with studies suggesting that a proportion of these claims lack evidence. 
  4. Information policies have limits: other tools, such as legislation to regulate green nudging online, have yet to be developed in a systematic way. 
  5. It is often very difficult for consumers to know who they are dealing with in online environments: legislation that better allocates responsibilities and liabilities between traders and platforms on information provision is needed, and those that exist are at a rather early stage of development. 
  6. Today’s legislative frameworks do not appear to be fit for purpose to address online consumer issues linked to artificial intelligence and big data, such as personalised advertisements, recommendations, and rankings. 
  7. In the absence of harmonised and standardised rules, terms, and methods to measure, assess, and communicate product sustainability information at the international level, policymakers worldwide face challenges when protecting consumers, pursuing sustainability objectives, and regulating private sector actors that increasingly function across multiple jurisdictions.  
  8. Enforcing consumer rights remains a significant challenge due to a lack of adequate resources and prioritization of consumer rights. 


Read more about our continuing research, undertaken with the International Institute for Sustainable Development. 



What needs to happen now?

At Stockholm+50 on Thursday 02 June our high-level event discussed five global priorities for leaders to make transparent and sustainable e-commerce a reality for consumers, including to:
  1. Set requirements for product sustainability information
  2. Allocate responsibilities for communicating product sustainability information
  3. Encourage sustainable consumer behaviours in e-commerce
  4. Strengthen the reliability of eco-labels
  5. Combat misleading green claims
These priorities should be supported by:
  1. Promoting consumer education and awareness about product sustainability aspects
  2. Strengthening the enforcement of consumer law
  3. Promoting a coherent policy framework on sustainable consumption 
Following our discussion, we are conducting a peer review on our toolkit for policymakers, lasting until Monday 20 June. Key stakeholders will be involved in the review and we will then publish a final version of the recommendations shortly thereafter.

What next?

Global, multi-stakeholder action is central to creating an online marketplace that is fair, safe, and sustainable for all. Contact Sustainable Consumption Specialist at Consumers International, Oliver Bealby-Wright, to take part in this global initiative. You may be invited to: 

  • Participate in the peer review we are conducting on the policy toolkit, running until Monday 20 June 2022.
  • Suggest use cases for the innovation white paper.
  • Collaborate over the project launch and future campaign in Q3 2022. 




International Youth Day 2022: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Young People and Consumer Rights

In collaboration with our Next Generation Leaders Network, today we're celebrating International Youth Day (#IYD2022).

In a rapidly changing world, it is essential that the consumer movement listens to the voices of young people and equips them with the tools they need to champion consumer rights. Not only are the net generation often vulnerable to consumer concerns, but they can be powerful agents of change.



Consumer Associations: A Major Player in Responsible Digital Finance

In collaboration with Consumers International, whose membership includes 97 consumer associations from low-income countries, we carried out research looking at the role of these organizations in bolstering consumer protection. Through interviews with 32 associations from low-income countries, we found that consumer associations employ a range of innovative strategies to protect consumers of digital finance.