In this publication, Marja Lena Hoffmann deals with sustainability labels and comparable sustainability indicators that the Green Consumption Assistant uses to evaluate sustainable products. The working paper points out conceptual considerations as well as methodological weaknesses that are relevant for the further development of the Green Consumption Assistant.
The production, use and disposal of products have a significant impact on people and the environment. Consumers are interested in buying sustainable products, but often feel overwhelmed in identifying them and assessing their environmental and social impacts. Concerns about greenwashing can unsettle consumers too. At the same time, e-commerce has expanded rapidly. As a result, the influence of online platforms such as search engines, price comparison sites and online marketplaces on consumer decisions has also increased. These developments entail opportunities as well as risks for sustainable consumption. The interdisciplinary research project „Green Consumption Assistant” (GCA) addresses how sustainable consumption can be promoted in online environments. With the aim of facilitating sustainable purchasing decisions, data on sustainable products is recorded and evaluated automatically in a database. Based on that, clothing and electronics products identified as sustainable are labelled in the search engine Ecosia. The selection of products displayed is based on sustainability labels and comparable sustainability indicators assigned by reliable third-party providers. This working paper describes the current approach for identifying and evaluating sustainable products, the underlying conceptual considerations, methodological weaknesses, and potential for further development.