Strategic tradeoffs for wildlife-friendly eco-labels

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Abstract

Labels on products are meant to influence consumer behavior. Consumers buying products labeled as eco-friendly may hope to help conserve the environment, but eco-labels vary in their claims and credibility. We define three types of wildlife-friendly eco-labels, according to their potential to conserve wildlife, and describe barriers to convincing consumers of their claims. Eco-labels we term “Supportive” donate revenues to conservation organizations and are, at best, indirect interventions, opaque to consumer scrutiny. “Persuasive” eco-labels certify manufacturing/collection practices, under the assumption that wildlife will benefit as a result. “Protective” eco-labels certify wildlife conservation, which can gain the highest level of credibility, but require the greatest verification effort. Proving that producers conserved wildlife is costly, time-consuming, and technically challenging, because wild animals ignore property boundaries and experience mortality and dispersal irrespective of people, but their population dynamics often obscure the role of human activities and economic practices. Nevertheless, wild animals are among the most inspiring and marketable components of the environment.

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