Perception of carbon-neutral products

The Consumer Organisation North Rhine-Westphalia commissioned SINUS-Institut to conduct a representative online survey to find out what proportion of consumers can correctly classify the meaning of "carbon-neutral" statements and how they perceive and evaluate the term "carbon-neutral".

More and more products are being advertised as "carbon-neutral". The claim is not protected by law, there is neither a uniform definition nor a verification by independent bodies. In current market usage, "carbon-neutral" usually means that a CO2 balance sheet has been drawn up for a product and that the resulting emissions have been offset by payments to (mostly international) climate protection projects. However, it is not promised that the products have particularly low CO2 emissions or are even emission-free or that the manufacturers implement measures to reduce CO2 along the value chain. In recent years, however, advertising has included phrases such as "100% carbon-neutral production" or "carbon-neutral product". Semantically, "carbon-neutral" is thus moved close to "manufacturing" or "production" - instead of clearly emphasising the principle of offsetting. Therefore, in the view of Consumer Organisation North Rhine-Westphalia, there is a danger that a false understanding has become established among many consumers.

The study shows, among other things:

  • Consumers' perceptions of the term "carbon-neutral" are diverse and range from "environmentally friendly production" to "no/reduced CO2 emissions" to "less plastic" - only a few respondents think of CO2 offsetting first.
  • Only 3% of consumers know in detail what the designation "carbon-neutral" on products means. 39% do know that CO2 emissions are offset. But 52% believe that the manufacturers have committed themselves to measures to reduce or avoid the CO2 emissions of the products.
  • Misconceptions about carbon neutrality are also widespread among the most environmentally conscious consumers.
  • 89 percent of consumers want clear rules for "carbon-neutral" products - and independent verification. 86 percent are of the opinion that only products that have been produced in a climate-friendly way may bear the label "carbon-neutral".

* via Consumer Organisation North Rhine-Westphalia

About the method

  • Survey method: online survey (CAWI = Computer Assisted Web Interviewing).
  • Population: sample quota-stratified by age, gender, education, household income and region
  • Sample size: 1,000 respondents
  • Survey period: 13 to 20 June 2022


The authors:

Overview SINUS studies


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