Ecodesign – ecological design as purchase criterion

Motion blurred shopping street (©William/Fotolia)

Consumers’ expectations towards a product (e.g. functionality, longevity, price) don’t necessarily correspond with product properties relevant for sustainability (e.g. durability, reparability, energy and resource efficiency). The project aims to strengthen the ecological design of a product as a purchase criterion for buyers, by better matching consumers’ expectations, the product’s development process as well as corporate and product communication. Apart from ecological criteria, social aspects like working conditions or fair payment are also taken into consideration.

Research Approach

Based on secondary literature and surveys, consumers‘ expectations towards the design of products will be gathered and compared to life cycle based approaches that determine the relevant environmental properties of products. With the help of focus group discussions during which ISOE’s research team will investigate in what way sustainable product properties are being perceived and evaluated, taking selected product groups (electronics, textiles, detergents, furniture) as an example. Here, the aim is to discuss how the knowledge thus obtained can be used for a user-integrated product development. Finally, recommendations for action will be offered. These guidelines show companies how they can better take consumers’ expectations into consideration when designing sustainable products and how they can depict the environmental performance of products and services in a more targeted way within their corporate communication.


When shopping, consumers have quite diverging expectations towards a product. Among them are criteria like functionality, design, longevity or the price of a product or service. Eco-friendliness is just one criterion amongst many and not equally relevant for all product groups. For consumers, specific ecological criteria also vary according to different product groups (for example energy efficiency or longevity for household appliances, absence of pollutants for textiles or detergents). Companies that implement sustainable design and want to be successful on the market, therefore have to have thorough knowledge of consumers’ expectations in order to include them into the development of a product or service. But this is not all: Another important factor is the suitable information and communication with consumers concerning the eco-friendliness of a product.

Research and project partner

Öko-Institut e.V. (project lead)


The project „Supporting ecodesign as purchase criterion for consumers” is commissioned by the Federal Environmental Agency (FKZ 3716 37 307 0).


Fischer, Corinna/Katja Moch/Siddharth Prakash/Jenny Teufel/Immanuel Stieß/Sarah Kresse/Barbara Birzle-Harder (2019): Nachhaltige Produkte - attraktiv für Verbraucherinnen und Verbraucher? Eine Untersuchung am Beispiel von elektronischen Kleingeräten, Funktionsbekleidung, Möbeln und Waschmitteln. Im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamtes. UBA-Texte, 11. Dessau-Roßlau

Fischer, Corinna/Rasmus Prieß/Dietlinde Quack/Cara-Sophie Scherf/Roman Seidl/Immanuel Stieß (2019): Ökodesign als Kaufkriterium bei Verbraucherinnen und Verbrauchern stärken. Abschlussbericht. Im Auftrag des Umweltbundesamtes. UBA-Texte, 10. Dessau-Roßlau


2016/09 – 2018/04