University of Waterloo Faculty of Environment ENBUS 306: Research Design Literary Review and Submission on Green Consumerism Prepared By: Wendy Ngai Student ID: 20351676 3B Environment and Business October 02, 2012 This literary submission will take on a systematic, convergent approach in focusing on five separate articles regarding green consumerism. The five peer-reviewed articles which have been selected for this paper have been placed in the appendix of this submission in the order in which they appear in the bibliography.
A key point which is continuously brought up within each article is that environmental consumerism is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society (Mazar and Zhong, 2009). Although there has been numerous research conducted on the increase of pro-social consumption patterns, there are, however, still major areas of interest which are yet to be explored, such as finding determinant factors which contribute towards green consumerism, discovering how these factors can be potentially quantified, and whether social demographic attributes are correlated to these pro-social consumer variables (Auger et.
Al, 2003). The understanding behind such topics can be extremely beneficial for businesses who wish to gain more insight into what drives their consumers to make socially ethical product choices, so that they can subsequently produce and market goods and services which are more closely suited to their consumer’s needs (Auger et. Al, 2003). Within these five peer articles, specific research questions which were addressed include: “What kind of consumer behaviours are responsive to green advertisement and green products? (Haytko and Matulich, 2007), “Are there specific determinants and variables (social demographic attributes, personality traits, values, etc. ) which lead to increased ‘green consumer’ habits? ” (Mazar and Zhong, 2009), as well as “What extent do consumers value ethical attributes in order to commit to trade-offs between conventional product traits and pro-social features? ” (Auger et. Al, 2003).
In terms of main conclusions which were derived from these articles, “Green Advertising and Environmentally Responsible Consumer Behaviours: Linkages Examined” identified that those who were already practicing environmentally-friendly behaviours, were most often affected by green advertising (Haytko and Matulich, 2007). As well, Shrum’s article on green consumer buyer characteristics and their implications indicated that consumers in general have now become more conscious enough to be concerned about social issues, thus enabling themselves to become more responsive to green products and their marketing (Shrum et al, 1995).
The conclusions above help indicate that green consumerism levels are on the rise, however, they do not necessarily identify what factors motivate consumers to make eco-friendly choices. Haytko and Matulich’s article partially answers this query by stating that consumers who are already environmentally-conscious tend to make more socially conscious choices. Yet, Shrum et. Al’s, Mazar and Zhong’s, and Auger et. al’s articles all highlight that a majority of research have found that although most consumers have pro-social thoughts, these thoughts are not the driving force behind pro-social purchasing actions (Auger et.
Al, 2003). This further reinforces the conclusions brought up in two other articles, that however many good intentions consumers may have, carrying them out is an entirely different story (Shrum et al, 1995), and that self-identified traits, such as one’s self expressed pro-social position, may not necessarily lead to similar behavioural outcomes (Sparks and Shepherd, 1992). A conclusion which more thoroughly answers the pending inquiry is Shrum’s article, which helps portray a rough sketch of the typical green consumer’s profile.
Several characteristics identified are that eco-friendly consumers tend to have an interest in new products, are informative shoppers and strongly opinionated, enjoy sharing their own opinions with other consumers, pay strong attention to price, and often lack brand loyalty. The article also identifies the green consumer as often very skeptical of green advertising in general, which results in their own adoptive means of conducting alternative research so that they are well-informed prior to making a purchase (Shrum et. Al, 1995).
As well, Auger’s article provided supporting evidence to this point by restating that active information seekers were often more apt to adopt socially ethical products (Auger et al, 2003). Several types of research methods were used to reach these conclusions, including the use of primary data collected through ethical disposition surveys and choice experiment surveys (Auger et al, 2003). An extensive amount of secondary research was also pulled together, with some data sets being analyzed to determine the conclusive results (Shrum et. Al, 1995).
However, it is noted within each paper that there are gaps which exist within each article’s research design. For example, some surveys were only targeted at a certain demographics, leading to a relatively homogeneous study groups (Haytko and Matulich, 2007), while other data sets did not reflect the general population, as some secondary data either over represented or underrepresented certain populations, resulting in an incomprehensive analysis of data (Shrum et. Al, 1995). As a result, gaps can be observed in both the research questions conducted within these articles, as well as the research designs of these projects.
This potentially paves the road for future research be conducted so that there could be more supporting evidence on what factors drive consumers to value pro-environment products over conventional items, and whether these factors are instilled within the characteristic of the consumer themselves or whether there are linkages to demographic and social variables. The existence of these gaps brings up many questions within the spectrum of green consumerism which the ENBUS 306 Research Design project can attempt to answer.
With this said, the focus of these gaps will require an extensive amount of consumer data that covers a wider spectrum of demographic groups. To address this issue, surveys can potentially be conducted with the use of stratified random sampling in order to cover a broader spectrum of demographic groups so that samples will include an extensive diversity of ages, education levels and incomes to allow for a more conclusive study to be conducted. References Auger, P. , Burke, P. , Devinney T. M. , Louviere, J. J. (2003).
What Will Consumers Pay for Social Product Features? Journal of Business Ethics. 42(3), 281-304. Haytko, D. L. & Matulich, E. (2007). Green Advertising and Environmentally Responsible Consumer Behaviors: Linkages Examined. Journal of Management and Marketing Research. 1(7), 9. Mazar, N. & Zhong, C-B. (2009, August 27). Do Green Products Make Us Better People? Psychological Science. 21(4), 494-498. Shrum, L. J. , McCarty, J. A. , & Lowrey, T. M. (1995). Characteristics of the Green Consumer and Their Implications for Advertising Strategy.
Journal of Advertising. 24(2), 71-82. Sparks, P. & Shepherd, R. (1992, December). Self-Identity and the Theory of Planned Behaviour: Assessing the role of Identification with “Green Consumerism”. Social Psychology Quarterly. 55(4), 388-389 Appendix – Journal Article Summaries Article #1 – What Will Consumers Pay for Social Product Features? This article, written for the Journal of Business Ethics by Pat Auger, Paul Burke, Timothy M. Devinney and Jordan J. Louviere, highlights the increasing importance of ethical product choices in the consumer market.
Studies have indicated that prosocial behaviours have been on the rise, however, they have not portrayed what kind of trade-offs consumers must make between conventional products and socially responsible products, and neither have they provided a quantifiable degree or worth that the added value of ethical choices costs to consumers. The purpose of this paper is thus, to provide clarity on the value of ethical features associated with products, as well as to identify what type of people value ethical features, and what factors may cause their preferences for ethical features to vary.
As a result, the two basic questions which are asked within this article are: Is there a great extent to which consumers value ethical attributes in order for them to commit to trade-offs between conventional features and pro-social traits? And which groups of consumers tend to have this type of standpoint where ethical characteristics are valued significantly? With regards to the first question, several key ethical traits of products have been identified to hold significantly higher values over other traits even though all types of social and ethical features had an impact on consumer choice.
For example, when related to the structured choice experiments which were carried out to test the “monetary value” of ethical traits, it was found that some consumers were more willing to pay for certain ethical attributes of a soap, such as the testing of animals for bar of soap (if it was not tested, consumers were willing to pay an additional value of $1. 56), as compared to whether the bar was purchased from a local area (more of an environmental attribute, which consumers were only willing to pay and extra ten cents for).
It was found, that value-wise, there was generally a displayed dislike for child labour and animal testing products, and such results were found through the structured choice experiments, through the estimation of dollar amount ‘values’ allocated to these individual traits. As for the second question about groups, it was discovered that in general, consumers were often more affected by unethical behavior than by prosocial behavior, thus placing more pressure on companies to maintain corporate responsibility by delivering products which held social value.
This also meant that company public images and profiles were threatened by the notion of poor corporate social responsibility management , as they had more to lose for making products under bad conditions, than what little they could gain by marketing products that had been made under good conditions. Additionally, although it was determined that demographics was not a good indicator of consumption preferences in terms of socially responsible items, all consumers responded negatively to poor ethically made products. In particular, Western consumers had a more extreme response to bad features as ompared to Chinese consumers. As well, it was found that active information seekers were more apt to adopt socially ethical products over their typical brands. Interestingly enough, however, was that the article found a very weak relationship between an individual’s concern for environmental and social issues as compared to their actual consumer action. There was not very much evidence supporting ethical disposition(standing) and ethical decision making, resulting in mostly pro-social thoughts, but little pro-social consumer action.
This further reinforces the previous article’s conclusive argument regarding the fact that consumers may have good intentions, but carrying them out is another factor. influences do not automatically translate into behavior, and rather, people are more influenced and attracted to pro-social behavior by incentives, such as costs and rewards. Research methods which were used to produce these conclusions included secondary research, an ethical disposition survey, and a choice experiment survey.
Regarding gaps found in the literature as well as through secondary research, it has been noted that the studies conducted in this research article typically focused on one single pro-social attribute of a product at a type, as oppose to a variety, such as they are in real life. As well, the results of this test cannot reject the hypothesis that there are segments of consumers who value ethical attributes, however, it is unclear as to who they actually are.
These gaps furthermore suggest that by further delving into these issues as to how much value these ethical traits hold, and to which segment markets these traits hold value to, businesses can directly use this information to market their products accordingly to best suit their target market’s needs. Citation: Auger, P. , Burke, P. , Devinney T. M. , Louviere, J. J. (2003). What Will Consumers Pay for Social Product Features? Journal of Business Ethics. 42(3), 281-304.
Article #2 Title: Green Advertising and Environmentally Responsible Consumer Behaviours: Linkages Examined The article “Green Advertising and Environmentally Responsible Consumer Behaviours: Linkages Examined” uncovers interesting factors which link consumer behaviour towards environmental products. Two key inquiries which are addressed in this article are 1) What societal factors have contributed towards the need for firms to commit to environmental initiatives and products? and 2) What kind of consumer behaviours are responsive to green advertisement and green products?
To address the first inquiry, this paper cites a Dale Bush article as well as a USA Today article by James healey and Barbara Hagenbaugh, stating that recessions leading to sky-high oil prices have helped resurface environmental issues. However, citing the ‘Why Companies Go Green: A Model of Ecological Responsiveness’ article mentioned in class, several ideas which I would believe could also play a role in firm include Economic Opportunities and Stakeholder Pressures—which, in this case, relates to the consumers themselves).
As for the second inquiry, of ‘what kind of consumer behaviours are responsive to green advertisement and green products’, the article addresses this through the use of secondary resources as well as through two primary surveys, which the bulk of this paper relies on for its data. Although there may be bias present through secondary resources, most of the paper derives its analysis objectively with the use of the survey which has been refined from previous research papers. However, limitations which may arise from the survey that was used include the fact that the survey used is a second rendition of previous versions.
With this said, some inconsistencies have been addressed and eliminated from previous versions of the survey. As well, the sample population which is studied in this paper utilized students, leading to a relatively homogeneous study group based on similar age groups and similar income levels. As a result, the article also recommends that future research be conducted which includes a sample containing a wider diversity of ages, education levels, and incomes. In the end, the results of this paper show that those who already practice environmentally-friendly behaviours are typically the most affected by green advertising.
Theory gaps which have been recognized in this article include identifying which target market is most susceptible to green advertising, as well as the general behaviour of consumers (females tend to view towards the notion of purchasing green products (most are willing to pay more for these types of products). As this study is, quote, “a replication and extension of work that was completed more than a decade ago”, much refinement will be needed to thoroughly address the issue at hand, which will be a goal in mind when completing the ENBUS 306 Research Design Study Project. Citation: Haytko, D.
L. & Matulich, E. (2007). Green Advertising and Environmentally Responsible Consumer Behaviors: Linkages Examined. Journal of Management and Marketing Research,. 1(7), 9. Article #3 Do Green Products Make Us Better People? This research report, written by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong from the University of Toronto, reflects on the analysis of consumer choices with regards to social or moral values. Originally received by the Association for Psychological Science on May 14, 2009, the revision of this report was officially accepted on August 27th, 2009 and published online on March 5, 2010.
As a result, the analysis and conclusions conducted from this report is relatively recent and review of such literature can be applicable to our ENBUS 306 Research Design research paper. It has been noticed that there has been a prevalence of green products out in the market. This paper primarily focuses on determining variables (i. e. social demographic attributes, personality traits, or values) which lead to increased “green consumer’ habits, as well as whether these green consumption traits indicate a generally overall altruistic individual, or whether it leads to the opposite.
This paper takes the use of secondary research, along with three experiments to test its predictions: Experiment 1 – where fifty nine students from the University of Toronto were surveyed on their impressions of green consumer impressions, Experiment 2 – where students were tested on their altruistic decisions on sharing money after making a green purchase on a virtual online store, and Experiment 3 – where students were also told to make a green purchase on a virtual online store, but were later tested on their honesty and stealing.
From this paper, it is concluded that increased exposure to environmentally friendly products will induce increased consumerism as a result of the subtle environmental cues radiated from the products. As green products tend to represent higher ethical standards and is often associated with better moral implications, it is expected that additional exposure to such products will instigate more green purchases in the market.
However, associated with this altruistic act is a psychological behaviour known as the ‘licensing’ effect, where individuals then justify deviating behaviours with their self-deemed ‘virtuous’ acts. As a result from this study, especially within the latter two experiences, it has been found that the purchasing of green products tend to ironically lead to selfish or ethically questionable behavior as a result of consumers justifying their acts with their previously ‘altruistic’ purchases.
One key issue in the research design that I would like to bring up is the randomness of the sample surveyed. The sample experiment group for all three tests were composed on undergraduate students. As a result, the full spectrum of demographics was not thoroughly tested in the case of this report, and although I am unsure whether or not this would have affected the outcome of the analysis, I believe that it should be noted for when we decide to complete our own survey and tests for our ENBUS 306 Research Design experiment.
Citation: Mazar, N. & Zhong, C-B. (2009, August 27). Do Green Products Make Us Better People? Psychological Science. 21(4), 494-498. Article #4 Title: Buyer Characteristics of the Green Consumer and Their Implications for Advertising Strategy This article provided an interesting view on the psychographic profile of the green consumer. In particular, this article focused on identifying factors of pro-social consumers, such as purchasing behaviour (e. g. price consciousness, general care when shopping, product interest and brand loyalty).
The results of this article determined that the profile of a green consumer was that of an opinionated leader and conscious shopper who was resourceful when seeking products. The green consumer is also skeptical about green marketing, and in general, consumers who found to not only be confused regarding environmental claims, but also fairly distrustful of them. The consumer-based studies conducted in this article investigated characteristics of consumers such as demographics (age, income, education) along with psychographic segmentation variables (attitudes and values).
Ad based-studies were also conducted as well, which focused more on elements of the ad. The results of the ad-based studies determined that green ads were more focused on corporate images rather than products, and also focused heavily on production of a product as compared to its disposal. The major focus of this article centered on identifying which factors influenced the green consumer as opposed to focusing on the levels of green consumerism consciousness, which is much more prevalent in the research world.
The article furthermore constructed a profile of green consumers v. non-green consumers and identified any dominant traits which are more specific in leading consumers to make their choices. In order to obtain their conclusions, this article analyzed data from a Needham Life Style Study, going through the list to identify items which could potentially be crucial in developing the green profile of a consumer. These items were then listed on a survey with a Likert scale so that participants can rate them on a 1 to 5 basis.
Two main criteria were used in the study design—which included the concept of whether the individual made a special effort to purchase green products, or whether they were willing to change their purchase based on other factors. As a result, this article found that green consumers held an interest in new products, were informative, and opinionated leaders. This article also found that the influence of consumer variables leading to green purchases were completely independent of demographic variables, similar to a number of studies which found little to no relationships between demographics and environmental attitudes and behaviours.
It also discovered that the most green purchases were often better educated older females with higher incomes and more liberal orientations. A cautionary note to take with this research is that it take on an exploratory approach by using secondary data. Therefore, its sample is quite general and does not reflect the overall population as certain groups can be overrepresented/underrepresented. As a result, this study is not necessarily comprehensive. Citation: Shrum, L. J. , McCarty, J. A. , & Lowrey, T. M. (1995).
Characteristics of the Green Consumer and Their Implications for Advertising Strategy. Journal of Advertising. 24(2), 71-82. Article #5 – Self Identity and the Theory of Planned Behaviour: Assessing the Role of Identification of Green Consumerism This article attempts to identify the notion of self-identity with regards to pro-social and environmentally conscious behavior. In order to complete the research, a questionnaire was formed in the research design, which consisted of two measures of identification with green consumerism.
Participants were asked on whether they thought of themselves and a green consumer, and whether they think of themselves who is concerned with green issues. The answers were given from a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being disagree very strongly, and 5 being agree very strongly. The two measures were then summed to help create a quantifiable measure of ‘self-identity’. The model of this paper aims to answer crucial questions on attitudes with regards to “utility” or value.
This is because attitude can lead to certain behaviours which have an influence over development of an individual’s self-identity. In essence, this paper helps to clarify why consumers make the purchases they do, commit to certain behaviours, so that they can further mold themselves into their developed ‘self-identity’. Although there were little flaws or biases found in the research design in this study, the results of this paper became too statistical to properly inference a conclusion out of the data derived from the main questionnaire.
In other words, the one major hypothesis they were trying to test, which is whether there was no independent relationship between self-identity and planned behavior, was rejected in this case, and helped stem up a bunch of additional questions which still remain unanswered. Citation: Sparks, P. & Shepherd, R. (1992, December). Self-Identity and the Theory of Planned Behaviour: Assessing the role of Identification with “Green Consumerism”. Social Psychology Quarterly. 55(4), 388-389