Market shares for green products growing – yet CO2 emissions in consumer sector remain unchanged

Shopping trolley in a super marketClick to enlarge
Sales of environmentally friendly products has risen seven percent compared to 2015
Source: nonnie192 / Fotolia

Sales of green products in 2015 in the consumer sectors of homes and living, mobility and food grew by seven per cent over the previous year. Yet CO2 emissions in these sectors remain at virtually the same level. According to the Grüne Produkte in Deutschland 2017 – Marktbeobachtungen für die Umweltpolitik [Green Products in Germany 2017 - Market observations for environmental policy] study by the German Environment Agency (UBA), CO2 emissions in the consumer sector have decreased by a mere one percent, that is from 7.9 tonnes per capita and year in 2005, to 7.8 tonnes in 2014. "The calculations are correct but the market for sales of environmentally friendly products is growing too slowly. This is mainly because the prices for products do not reflect the real costs to the environment. Our consumption causes considerable environmental pollution and environmental costs therefore should be factored in," said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger.

Pollution of the environment has not decreased despite the growth in the green products market. Emissions in the mobility sector have even increased slightly, by 0.4 per cent, due to a spike in air traffic emissions and virtually no change in car mobility. In the food sector, emissions have jumped by nine per cent – owing mainly to high levels of meat consumption. In contrast, CO2 emissions in the homes and living sector have declined by about ten per cent over the past decade, thanks to energy upgrading of the building stock. Also, larger average living space and greater numbers of appliances and equipment in the information and telecommunications sector in particular are compounding the pollution problem.

Homes and living (heating and electricity), mobility, and food account for 80 per cent of the CO2 emissions of private consumption. The study examines the sales volumes in these consumer sectors based on the market development of environmental labels. In the paper industry segment, for example, the Blue Angel ecolabel is widespread and well-known: some 17 per cent of sanitary papers have the Blue Angel with market share and sales having gained slightly since 2012. According to the study, environmental labels are especially successful when the green products are also less expensive and there is government support for the ecolabels. An example is the EU's highly successful energy label: whereas energy-efficient appliances save electricity costs, the EU energy label is an obligatory rather than a voluntary commitment.

The study

This is UBA's third market study of select green products in the three central consumer sectors homes and living, mobility and food. It compares the data for 2008-2015 to the development of CO2 emissions in the consumer sector. It takes a look for the first time at market developments for the Blue Angel ecolabel for paper, the EU ecolabel for sanitary products, FSC and PEFC wood, and GOTS (textiles).

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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