What works?

Effectiveness of product labelling schemes

What works?

Many consumer product labels in Australia (i.e. FairTrade, Energy Rating, Marine Stewardship Council) claim to have pro-environmental benefits and/or pro-social outcomes, but how effective are they at changing behaviour?

Our aim with this study is to understand whether such labelling schemes are effective in changing behaviour and the extent to which they can be used to promote and increase producer and consumer adoption of circular economy products and services.

Key activities

To capture different perspectives on the problem, this project involved:

  1. A rapid evidence review on the effectiveness of labelling schemes around the world.
  2. Insights from the review were translated into an experimental online survey to test consumer interest in circular products and whether CE labelling schemes could be effective in an Australian context.
  3. Development of online tool.

In this video, Research Stream Leader, Dr Celine Klemm, gives a short summary of the research and provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the trials.

Process and insights

In conducting this research, we followed The BehaviourWorks Method to gather evidence on the behaviour change approaches most likely to work.
(See a brief visual summary of the BehaviourWorks Method or a more extensive explanation.)

A step-by-step guide of how we followed The BehaviourWorks Method

Step 1 - Rapid Review


In response to jurisdictions across Australia, and globally, exploring Circular Economy (CE) policies, the BWA Waste and Circular Economy Collaboration conducted a rapid evidence review on the potential role of eco-labels in supporting the future implementation of policies that support a transition to CE. Our research aims to inform policy dialogue and identify relevant behavioural public policy experiments.

In conducting our rapid evidence review, we asked ourselves:

"What is the effectiveness of product labelling schemes targeting Circular Economy outcomes on behaviour and practice?"


Our studies mainly focussed on consumer purchases, where we noticed a number of consistent themes, including:

  • trust
  • knowledge and awareness
  • consumer preferences
  • values
  • price
  • habits.

Download the Rapid Review

For readers wanting a quick overview of the evidence review (5 minute read):

2 page summary of the review

For readers writing a brief, a policy submission or wanting a summary of practical insights:

Policy highlights of the review

For readers needing all the technical detail, including the full methodology:

Full report of the review

Step 2 - Trials/workshops

Trial summary

As no comprehensive CE labelling scheme currently exists in Australia, we sought to understand what circular characteristics a hypothetical CE label should target for maximum behaviour change as a precursor to any labelling scheme exploration in the Australian context.

Building on the Rapid Review, the collaboration identified the following interests to examine the effectiveness of CE labelling within the Australian context:

  • How much consumer interest is there in CE characteristics and new labelling schemes?
  • Under what conditions might CE labels impact?
  • What is the knowledge & awareness of CE characteristics and of existing eco-labels?
  • How trusted are eco-labelling schemes?


Overall, our findings show potential for new or expanded schemes assuring CE characteristics. For maximum behaviour change, durability or product lifetime labelling is particularly promising, followed by recyclability. However, price is consistently shown to be the single most important attribute to increasing the likelihood of purchases of products with CE attributes for consumers.

To take a deeper look into our trial findings, and how producers, manufacturers, and policymakers can strengthen eco-labelling schemes to change consumer purchasing behaviour, see our infographic for a quick overview or our initial report for our complete findings.

Eco-labels infographic
Eco-labels initial report

The Conjoint Analysis Simulator Tool

As it is important to understand what circular characteristics a CE label should target for maximum behaviour change for Australia to progress towards a circular economy, BWA developed an online tool based on our trials to help manufacturers, producers, and policy-makers understand market demand.

How to use the tool:

Download our PDF guide

Use our online simulator tools to explore consumer interest and potential for labelling schemes

Following the trials, we created the Conjoint Analysis Simulator Tool. This allows users to simulate market demand for variations of existing products in the market (i.e. textile, stationery or furniture products) or the introduction of new products (i.e. products that possess CE attributes) using the data we collected from our online choice experiments. There are 8 tools - one for each product tested.

For example, users will be able to compare market demand and the extent of consumers' willingness to pay a price premium for a pair of jeans that are repairable compared to a pair that are not.

Who can this tool be useful for?

  • Policy-makers to promote circularity in Australia?

Those working in peak bodies can find great use of this tool to explore the potential implications of mandating the improvement of product features. It also provides evidence-based insights in to the CE attributes most valued by customers, which future eco-labelling schemes can highlight to promote uptake of consumer purchases in products with circularity features.

  • Manufacturers and producers seeking to alter their current products to include CE attributes?

The tool can be of great use to manufacturers and producers who are looking to understand consumer preferences and willingness to pay a price premium for various circular attributes.

For example, the tool can be used to indicate what percentage of recycled content must be featured in a product for consumers to be interested in purchasing it, over a product that is cheaper and is not made of recycled material.

Access the simulator tools

Explore how information on circular attributes is likely to influence consumer choice by clicking on the product below.

Recycled content & recyclability:
Pen Chair Jeans Cartridge Sofa Jacket
Product lifetime & repairability:
Jeans Jacket