To make environment-friendly decisions, consumers need reliable and easy-to understand information. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data addresses the first, but with multiple impact categories displayed in technical units, it struggles to deliver the second. This work investigates strategies to render LCA data more comprehensible, testing in an online experiment how consumers interact with it under missing information and with simplified communication styles. Participants ranked the impacts of six 3-dimensional (water consumption, non-renewable energy use and CO 2 emissions) environmental profiles of coffee. With a 3 × 3 between-subjects design, we analyzed answer accuracy under three communication styles (LCA standard units, values converted to popular references, and standardized units), the positioning of a missing information profile under three data gap patterns, and if common dimensions (those for which all options provide information) are overweighted in the decision. Our results show that: (1) Simplification does not always translate into better comprehension, as both the simplified communication styles were less accurate than LCA standard units. (2) Loss aversion was the dominant force guiding decisions under missing information, leading participants to rank the missing information profile as the least impactful in many cases. This contradicts previous work that suggested that the dominant force was the tendency to see willful deception on information omission. (3) There is no evidence that consumers try to minimize their cognitive efforts to reach a decision by overweighting common dimensions when analyzing environmental information as has been reported for other contexts. These findings suggest the viability for a “sustainability facts panel” based on standard LCA data. They also sound the alarm about the need for a uniform approach to communicate environmental performance.

Towards a sustainability facts panel? Life Cycle Assessment data outperforms simplified communication styles in terms of consumer comprehension

Vizzoto F.;Testa F.;Iraldo F.
2021-01-01

Abstract

To make environment-friendly decisions, consumers need reliable and easy-to understand information. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data addresses the first, but with multiple impact categories displayed in technical units, it struggles to deliver the second. This work investigates strategies to render LCA data more comprehensible, testing in an online experiment how consumers interact with it under missing information and with simplified communication styles. Participants ranked the impacts of six 3-dimensional (water consumption, non-renewable energy use and CO 2 emissions) environmental profiles of coffee. With a 3 × 3 between-subjects design, we analyzed answer accuracy under three communication styles (LCA standard units, values converted to popular references, and standardized units), the positioning of a missing information profile under three data gap patterns, and if common dimensions (those for which all options provide information) are overweighted in the decision. Our results show that: (1) Simplification does not always translate into better comprehension, as both the simplified communication styles were less accurate than LCA standard units. (2) Loss aversion was the dominant force guiding decisions under missing information, leading participants to rank the missing information profile as the least impactful in many cases. This contradicts previous work that suggested that the dominant force was the tendency to see willful deception on information omission. (3) There is no evidence that consumers try to minimize their cognitive efforts to reach a decision by overweighting common dimensions when analyzing environmental information as has been reported for other contexts. These findings suggest the viability for a “sustainability facts panel” based on standard LCA data. They also sound the alarm about the need for a uniform approach to communicate environmental performance.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11382/544553
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