“I trust they’re checking”: the role of eco-labels in reducing consumer uncertainty
2014 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
This paper examines how uncertainty is resolved on complex markets with socially distant actors, and the role of trust in this resolution, through a qualitative study of the role of eco-labels on Swedish market of ecological consumer goods, and the attitudes of eco-friendly consumers. It is shown how eco-labels function as devices to resolve consumer uncertainty in three different ways: firstly, eco-labels are control organisations, who make up for the inability for the consumer to personally monitor or control the producers, by providing third-party certification. For consumers, however, the uncertainty resolution is based not on monitoring, but on trust, as eco-labels function as guardians of trust, and offer guarantees made trustworthy primarily by their values, and their independence from commercial actors. This system is thus able to create trust through a context of social relations. But the system also creates trust, and resolves uncertainty, in a third way, as the eco-labels through the store context where the consumer encounters them are transformed to signs, which are given meaning by their relation to other signs and environmental groups. Trust is therefore created not solely through social context, but also through semiotic context, by creating a physical, trustworthy sign of sustainable production. The study thus shows how the organisation of trust creation must draw on a semiotic as well as social context, in order to provide trust on mass markets, and furthermore how third-party certification bodies must function not only as guardians of trust, but also as creators of signs, if they are to be able to build consumer trust.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Other Social Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-105775OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-105775DiVA: diva2:731386
30th EGOS Colloquium, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, July 3–5 2014