It is extremely difficult for consumers to assess whether a product on the supermarket shelf was produced and sold in a sustainable way. With a specially created app, a team of researchers from LCM, ETH Zurich and two supermarket chains provided relevant information when shopping. Lo and behold, it has actually changed shopping behavior.

The scientists asked themselves, if consumers had a digital shopping assistant that helps them act according to their own values, would they shop more in a more sustainable way? Would they try new products and change their behavior?

To investigate this, the research team headed by Johannes Klinglmayr (LCM) developed a new type of shopping assistant that respects privacy, enables self-determination, makes evaluations comprehensible and assesses the environment, health and product quality. This made conscious, sustainable purchasing decisions possible for consumers without the otherwise necessary research effort. In fact, consumers did change their shopping behavior, which was more sustainable! Therefore, the study opens up new possibilities; it shows how consumers can be empowered to shop more sustainably on their own initiative.

The study was carried out as part of the EU project ASSET- “Instant Gratification for Collective Awareness and Sustainable Consumerism”. The project, led by Johannes Klinglmayr from the Linz Center of Mechatronics (LCM), cooperated with consumer advocates, the ETH Zurich, Spanish, German and Estonian partners as well as with two supermarket chains.

“In 2015 we started with the vision that the integration of one’s own values would enable a simple and individual product overview. And that consumers shop more sustainably if they can. After field studies in Estonia and Austria and incorporating and analyzing actual shopping behavior, we can now say that we were correct in our assumption,” said Klinglmayr. “In order to become more sustainable as a society, individual consumption is not the only adjustment screw we have to turn. But our study shows us that this increases the general awareness of sustainability and we can’t have enough of that. ”

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Our paper on sustainable consumption was also published in the journal ‘Royal Society Open Science’:

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