The fisheries industry promotes third-party eco-labels that signify sustainability, similar to those used in forestry and tourism (see Nature http://doi.org/nb5; 2013). In my view, these fail for three reasons.
First, consumers care strongly that labels for health and quality standards are accurate because they affect individuals, but care much less about eco-labels because their effects are spread across society.
Second, industries tend to use weak eco-labels in political games to avoid strong regulation.
Third, ineffective eco-labels closely mimic accurate ones. Because there are no adverse consequences for consumers who cannot tell them apart, a high proportion of mimics persists.
Eco-labels are thus no substitute for eco-laws.
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Journal of Consumer Policy (2015)