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Informing Green Markets: The Roles of Industry, NGOs and Government

June 17-19, 2010

Ann Arbor, Michigan 

The desire to “Go Green” has swept across society over the last few years. Thousands of products now market themselves based in part on environmental attributes. But there is surprisingly little consensus on what it will take to really make green markets work.  Many people worry that the current proliferation of ecolabels is generating consumer confusion, not making green purchasing easier.  Research on nutritional labels suggests they have had little impact on American eating habits, and calls into question whether environmental labels can be effective.  Environmental groups warn that many green claims are nothing more than greenwash. Can green markets work if buyers do not trust the information they are getting from sellers? 

This workshop is designed to focus on the dynamic processes by which information in green markets emerges and evolves.  It is designed to provoke a “deep dive” discussion into how green markets will develop in upcoming years, and the appropriate roles of government regulation, corporate environmenal claims, and external evaluations by NGOs.  Among the questions to be explored:

  • What are the respective roles of purchasing agents for retailers and government, vis a vis ultimate consumers?
  • What is the relative importance of green ratings for companies and green ratings for products? 
  • How can purchasers be assured of the credibility of the information they receive?
  • Is product labeling a complement to or a substitute for government regulation?
  • Does the recent proliferation of ecolabels improve the marketplace or merely confuse it? 
  • Is competition between ecolabels beneficial? Will market forces work to winnow down the number of ecolabels and harmonize those that remain? 
  • Is there a need for some organization, perhaps government, to bring order to the current chaos?

The conference is designed to stimulate dialogue between the private sector, the public sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia.  It will begin with lunch on Thursday, June 17, and conclude the afternoon of Saturday, June 19.  Sessions on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning are geared more toward practitioner contributions, while those on Friday afternoon and Saturday are geared more towards helping academic researchers digest the practitioner contributions and shape the future research agenda. 


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