Press release 2015-04-08

New report: How different policy instruments impact consumption

Researchers at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute have been commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency to compile a list of some thirty appraised policy instruments designed to promote more sustainable household consumption patterns. The survey shows that congestion taxes, green car premiums and differentiated vehicle taxes have all been successful financial control mechanisms for reducing environmental impact.

For the first time in Sweden a comprehensive overview of policy instruments aimed at encouraging sustainable consumption has been carried out. In total, 32 different policy instruments targeting housing, transportation, shopping and food consumption have been surveyed and assessed, and the results compiled in a report.

The evaluation reports show that congestion charges in Stockholm and Gothenburg, a green car premium and carbon dioxide differentiated vehicle taxes have had an effect on human behavior leading to a reduction of environmental impact. The analysis of the congestion charge in Gothenburg also found that no other single measure has a commensurable effect on traffic volumes.

However, various subsidies and grants for the installation of environmental improving measures in housing have had a more limited impact on consumption behavior.

– This may be partly due to the fact that the cost-effectiveness of the energy-saving measures is often affected by already existing energy and carbon dioxide taxes. This means that the actual impact of the instrument is limited. In some cases funding and grants have not made the measures economically viable for private individuals, says Magnus Hennlock at IVL, one of the report authors.

In addition, information instruments targeting food consumption had a limited impact on behaviour. Climate and environmental labelling of food increased the proportion of ecofriendly choices made by consumers by about 5-10 per cent. Shelf marking led to increased sales of certain products such as organic coffee and olive oil, but not of other goods such as organic flour.

– This result confirms previous findings that information instruments have limited effects when they require relatively large sacrifices on the part of the consumer, or increase costs substantially. However, information instruments have a reinforcing effect when they are coordinated and synchronized with regulations and other instruments, says Magnus Hennlock.

Download the Policies for Sustainabl Consumption report here

For more information, please contact: Magnus Hennlock, magnus.hennlock@ivl.se

Emelie Aurell, Environmental Economist at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, emelie.aurell@naturvardsverket.se,

The study comprises part of the background material for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to follow up on environmental objectives in an in-depth evaluation to be presented in September this year. The 2015 evaluation report will target three selected focus areas, one of which is sustainable consumption. The focus report on sustainable consumption will be published in May/June 2015.