2010-2011: Effective approaches to environmental labelling of food products (Ref. FO0419 (FFG0911))

The environmental impacts of food production are complex and accumulate throughout a production chain from primary production, processing, packing, distribution, retail to end use (consumption). The potential environmental effects are numerous and can have a range of direct and indirect impacts, both positive and negative, including, for example, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, damage to wildlife habitats and biodiversity populations, pollution of water, soil and air and the consumption of non-renewable or scarce resources. There are numerous drivers that can help reduce these impacts including legislative instruments, marketing and consumer choices and demand. One driver that has received attention in recent years is the use of product labels, whereby the environmental 'credentials' of a product are communicated to the consumer. However, the science and practice of using labels to drive changes in consumer and industry behaviour is complex. There are many issues to resolve including their scientific credibility and robustness, and consumer perception of what such labels mean and how they are used. This Defra funded research project explored the practicality and effectiveness of environmental labelling of food as a mechanism to promote behavioural change to reduce the negative environmental impacts of food production and consumption. It also compared the pros and cons of different labelling formats and investigate the potential burden and in particular the costs, that introducing such a label would have on industry including food producers and exporters. This project was conducted in collaboration with the Food Ethics Council and the Policy Studies Institute, and the final report can be downloaded from the Defra website.


  • Tzilivakis, J., Green, A., Warner, D.J., McGeever,K. & Lewis, K.A. (2012). A framework for practical and effective eco-labelling of food products. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 3(1): 50-73. DOI. [Outstanding Paper Award Winner at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2013]
  • Tzilivakis, J., Lewis, K.A., Green, A., Warner, D.J., MacMillan, T & McGeevor, K. (2011). Effective approaches to environmental labelling of food products. Final Report for Defra Project FO0419. January 2011.


Dr John Tzilivakis



University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2020.