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What We May Have Is a Failure to Communicate: Labeling Environmentally Certified Forest Products

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To develop an understanding of the performance of different eco-labels for certified forest products, we administered a mail survey to a nationally representative sample of U.S. residents. In the survey, respondents viewed different eco-labels and were asked to perform a series of tasks designed to measure the labels' communication performance. Results indicate that relatively detailed labels are more beneficial for consumers (and environmentally sensitive forest product manufacturers) than simpler eco-seals. Eco-seals are the least credible type of label and, in general, do not allow consumers an adequate basis for product differentiation. However, we also find evidence that marginal changes can significantly improve the performance of simple eco-seals. The results suggest that U.S. consumers value the environmental benefits created from more environmentally benign forestry. Thus, consumer-driven purchases could potentially support a future of environmentally benign forest management practices with less reliance on other policy alternatives. However, the results also suggest that the current state of forest product labeling, where firms can (voluntarily) label their products with simple eco-seals from a variety of certification organizations, is not the most effective labeling approach. Parties who are interested in the long-run success of these programs need to consider altering current labeling approaches. FOR. SCI. 49(5):668–680.

Keywords: Forest management; credibility; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; information; market experiment; natural resource management; natural resources; policy

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Associate Professor Department of Resource Economics and Policy, University of Maine, 5782 Winslow Hall, Orono, ME, 04469, 207-581-3162; Fax: 207-581-4278 TEISL@maine.edu

Publication date: October 1, 2003

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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