A selection of interesting articles we came across recently on consumers and sustainability.
The role of guilt in opt-out/opt-in green choices
Companies often encourage consumers to engage in sustainable behaviours using their services in a more environmentally friendly or green way, such as reusing the towels in a hotel or replacing paper bank statements by electronic statements. Sometimes, the option of green service is implied as the default and consumers can opt-out, while in other cases consumers need to explicitly ask (opt-in) for switching to a green service. This research examines the effectiveness of choice architecture and particularly the different default policies—i.e., the alternative the consumer receives if he/she does not explicitly request otherwise—in engaging consumer green behaviour.
In four experiments, the researchers show that the opt-out default policy is more effective than the opt-in, because it increases anticipated guilt. This effect is stronger for consumers who are less conscious for the environment (Study 1). The study also shows that a forced choice policy, in which the consumer is not automatically assigned to any condition and is forced to choose between the green and the non-green service option, is more effective than the opt-in policy and not significantly more effective than the opt-out policy (Study 2).
Finally, they show that the role of defaults is weakened (enhanced), if a negotiated (reciprocal) cooperation strategy is used (Study 3). The article contributes to the literature of defaults and provides managerial and public policy implications for the design of green services.
Further details are available at: Aristeidis Theotokis & Emmanouela Manganari. 2015. The Impact of Choice Architecture on Sustainable Consumer Behavior: The Role of Guilt.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(2), 423-437.
When will you purchase environmentally friendly products?
Research shows that commitment-based interventions are among the most effective strategies to encourage pro-environmental behaviours, but methods to elicit commitments from a large number of individuals (i.e., door-to-door or phone campaigns) are often costly and unrealistic. Predictions requests—a commitment-type strategy—are an effective mass-communication strategy and have the potential to influence pro-environmental behaviour among large audiences.
This research is the first to demonstrate that prediction requests in a consumer behaviour context influence preference for environmentally friendly products. In addition, this research examines the role of individual and contextual factors in influencing the efficacy of prediction requests. Study 1 shows that exposure to an advertisement with a prediction request leads to increased preferences for environmentally sustainable (vs. traditional) household cleaning products, compared to a control advertisement, and that this effect is greater when the prediction request is paired with an audience cue (vs. prediction request only). Study 2 indicates that the effect of prediction requests on preference for sustainable products is greater for individuals with interdependent (vs. independent) self-construal. Substantive implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Read more in: H. Onur Bodur, Kimberly M. Duval and Bianca Grohmann. 2015. Will You Purchase Environmentally Friendly Products? Using Prediction Requests to Increase Choice of Sustainable Products.
Journal of Business Ethics, 2015, 129(1), 59-75.
Brand social responsibility (BSR)
Social responsibility is typically examined at the firm level, yet there are instances in which consumers’ social responsibility perceptions of the firm’s product brands differ from social responsibility perceptions with regard to the firm