Exploring labeling for ecosystem services and biodiversity : a Q study with the German food-processing industry

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Economics

Abstract: Agriculture contributes to the deterioration of ecosystem services and the loss of biodiversity. Policy measures to combat these problems are often ineffective. Eco-labeling can help to involve consumers for increasing the share of products addressing ecosystem conservation. However, the literature has paid little attention to the food industry’s perspective on labels, albeit the industry’s crucial role for label implementation. The objective of this study is to explore the German food industry’s views of food product labeling for the effective and efficient provision of ecosystem services. Q methodology was applied which ensured that the interviewees compared statements relative to each other and sorted them based on their subjective valuation which yielded three distinct viewpoints as outcomes. The first viewpoint (“grass-roots labelists”) highlighted the importance of transparent norms for the quantification of ecosystem services; the second viewpoint (“local believers”) highlighted the potential of ‘local’ ecosystem services; and the third viewpoint (“skeptics”) showed doubts regarding a label-based approach for the provision of ecosystem services. The heterogeneity in viewpoints leads to the conclusion that the detailed assessment of markets, products, consumers, regions, and ecosystem services is crucial. Although context is important, and tailored solutions are necessary, the three identified viewpoints can provide some guidance on focus areas for such further analysis.

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