Ecocheques create more mindful shoppers, study shows


Use of vouchers leads to CO2 reductions and affects consumption habits, even after allowance is spent

1.85m recipients

People who receive ecocheques from their employer continue shopping ecologically even after spending their eco allowance, a survey has shown. Asked about their shopping habits, 54% of voucher recipients said they paid more attention and placed more importance on the ecological aspects of their purchases as a result of receiving ecocheques.

The findings come from a study conducted for VIA, the association of voucher providers, among just over 2,000 people. Ecocheques were introduced in December 2008 for those who work in the private sector, as a tax-free benefit on top of their salary. They are worth €250 each year and can be spent on more than 1,000 products, including eco-friendly appliances and toys, gardening equipment, lightbulbs, organic food, cleaning products, bikes, train tickets and second-hand goods.

Last year, 1.85 million people received vouchers. The VIA survey shows that those who receive ecocheques are more likely to buy environmentally friendly products even after they have used up their cheques for the year.

“The amount you receive each year in ecocheques is €250. Once that has been spent, people don’t fall back to less ecological consumption,” said VIA chair Olivier Bouquet. “It’s a sort of continuation of that behaviour. If you consider that there are more than 1.8 million beneficiaries in Belgium, it’s impressive.”

Regional differences

Overall, the products most frequently bought using ecocheques are LED lamps, but the study showed differences between how people in different regions spend their vouchers. In Flanders, the most popular use is on buying a bicycle, while in Brussels people are most likely to spend them in DIY and organic shops. In Wallonia, household appliances are the most popular purchase.

The amount you receive each year in ecocheques is €250. Once that has been spent, people don’t fall back to less ecological consumption

- Olivier Bouquet

The choice of product also depends on a person’s economic situation. Families with disposable income of more than €3,500 a month use the vouchers to support their hobbies, such as buying an electric bike or gardening equipment. Those earning less are likely to spend them on multimedia and household appliances with an ecological label that guarantees energy-efficiency and can help to reduce household bills.

VIA estimates that every €1 of ecocheque is equivalent to a 1kg reduction in carbon emissions. “In total, using ecocheques led to an estimated reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 274,000 tons last year,” said Bouquet. “That’s the equivalent of 14 million return car journeys between Brussels and Ostend, or the annual CO2 emissions of 26,915 people in Belgium.”

Photo: Getty Images/FatCamera