Sustainability claims have existed on fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) for over four decades and there is evidence that they are increasing. Research suggests that consumers have a low level of knowledge and understanding of such labels. It has been found that environmental and labelling knowledge may influence consumption behaviour but the findings so far have been inconsistent. Furthermore, the issue of knowledge and particularly sense making of the variety of claims found on FMCGs today is somewhat under researched. In this paper we investigate the types of knowledge consumers draw upon in order to decode and make sense of different types of labels across two countries. We carried out a qualitative study in the UK and Greece with 12 focus groups and utilised concepts of knowledge to investigate consumer decoding of labelling. We found that overall consumers have limited labelling knowledge and understanding even though their environmental knowledge may vary. This limited labelling knowledge makes consumers feel unsettled and unsure about their shopping decisions. Finally, we identified areas where consumers demonstrated limited knowledge and requested further information and education. This has important implications for companies, marketers, and policy makers if sustainability claims are to promote and support sustainable consumption.
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