Green Consumer Behaviour Sustainability

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Business Strategy and the Environment Bus. Strat. Env. 15, 157–170 (2006) Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/bse.524

Sustainability: Consumer Perceptions and Marketing Strategies Seonaidh McDonald1* and Caroline J. Oates2 1 Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, UK 2 Management School, University of Sheffield, UK ABSTRACT Studies of green consumer behaviour, in particular purchasing and disposal, have largely focused on demographics and/or socio-demographics, with mixed and frequently contradictory results. To move the debate forward, we investigated a wide range of 40 sustainability activities with 78 consumers, who placed each activity on a matrix according to perceived effort and perceived difference to the environment. Patterns both across respondents and between certain pairs of activities were identified, and we suggest that this model increases our understanding of how consumers view sustainable activities. Marketers can use this information to consider marketing strategies that positively influence consumers’ perceptions of such activities. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment. Received 29 September 2004; revised 5 October 2005; accepted 19 October 2005 Keywords: green consomer; consumer perception; marketing; sustainable consumption

are again at the forefront of academic research and management thinking (Chan and Lau, 2004). Prakash (2002) suggests that the anticipated surge in green consumer behaviour, predicted for the 1980s and 1990s, never really occurred, and that the mass consumer market for green products has yet to develop. Overall, consumer response to green marketing efforts has fallen short of marketers’ expectations (Davis, 1993). However, recent emphasis on environmental concerns such as global warming, related aspects such as health scares, the pressure on organizations to account for their environmental performance, the labelling of products with environmental claims and developing technology that allows consumers to investigate issues for themselves has renewed interest in what is loosely called environmental marketing. Within marketing, the green movement has been viewed as an opportunity to identify and segment new markets, not entirely successfully. In this paper, we discuss previous research on green purchasing and disposal, the problems raised for marketers, and then we draw upon the literature and our own research to suggest an alternative approach to identifying and marketing sustainable activities. * Correspondence to: Seonaidh McDonald, Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University, Kaim House, Garthdee Road, Aberdeen AB 10 7QE, UK. E-mail: Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment



158 Beyond Green Segmentation

S. McDonald and C. J. Oates

A common theme across many marketing studies in this area is the attempt to define the characteristics of green consumers for segmentation purposes. This research has ‘not always yielded strongly indicative results, and the results produced in one study have been repeatedly contradicted in another’ (Wagner, 1997, p. 23). The main segmentation tools that have been used include demographics and/or socio-demographics with a view to aligning consumers’ characteristics with their propensity to purchase green products and services. Studies have found the green consumer to be educated/not educated, older/younger, female/male, or found no relationship at all between such factors and green consumer behaviour (Straughan and Roberts, 1999). Marketers have not been alone in this approach to understanding green behaviour, nor in their failure to uncover consistent relationships with demographic variables. Waste management researchers focusing on the other end of the consumption process have encountered similar problems...
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