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Seeing the World Through Green-Tinted Glasses

Apr 21, 2023
Haws’ GREEN scale evaluates the relationship between consumer commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly product evaluations

By Olivia Robertson

In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly relevant, many consumers are shopping with sustainability in mind. However, with sustainable shopping often comes the influences of personal preferences and financial restrictions. 

Kelly L. Haws

Kelly L. Haws

In the study, Seeing the World Through GREEN-Tinted Glasses: Green Consumption Values and Responses to Environmentally Friendly Products, Kelly L. Haws, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker, Jr., Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt University, Karen Page Winterich, Penn State University, and Rebecca Walker Naylor, Ohio State University, evaluate “green” consumption habits with a goal of better understanding consumers’ decision-making process and influences. These habits, described as “the tendency to express the value of one’s environmental protection through one’s purchases and consumption behaviors” are demonstrated to be part of a network containing not only environmental concerns but concerns and consciousness regarding personal physical and financial goals. 

“More and more consumers are prioritizing sustainability when checking off their shopping lists,” says Haws. “It’s interesting to consider the thought process behind selecting items from the shelf and where consumers draw the line on going green.” 

Haws argues that consumers’ green values are not only important predictors of their willingness to purchase green products but influence how they perceive and evaluate such products based on physical and financial preferences. The following conclusions can assist businesses in better understanding the green-centered decision-making process of their consumers and allow them to more effectively develop and advertise their products.

Consumers with higher concerns for green consumption are often more financially conscious. 

These consumers are intentional with how they use their personal resources and are dedicated to creatively upcycling their current possessions, seeking out multi-use products, and are less likely to discard their possessions before seeking new ways to use them. In other words, those for whom sustainability is a concern are also conscious regarding the use of their physical resources and personal finances.

Older, more educated, and higher-income consumers are more concerned with sustainability.

In a study consisting of a group of 22-70+-year-old individuals, researchers found that concerns regarding sustainability were not affected by gender, but rather by age, income, and level of education with those who are older, more affluent, and/or more educated being more dedicated to sustainability.

The GREEN Scale can be used to reliably predict environmental consumption behaviors.

The GREEN Scale, a measurement device used by Haws and colleagues, can be used to more reliably and accurately predict purchasing behaviors of sustainable products than tools used in the past. Using it to predict preferences between sustainable products and traditional products, researchers found that this measurement device allows those who are concerned with the comparison to understand the purchasing habits of consumers better when it comes to choosing between the 2 groups. This can be used by businesses to determine if providing a sustainable or a traditional product is more beneficial to their business goals. Additionally, the research found that this scale, though related, is still distinct from environmental influences and can accurately predict behaviors, preferences, and product choices based on sustainability concerns. Haws states that “notably, the measure of GREEN itself has been utilized by many researchers since, and can help identify shifting trends such as younger consumers’ increasing interest in sustainable options.” 

Higher concerns regarding sustainability reflect more positive evaluations of non-environmental elements of a product.

Those who are more concerned with sustainability are more likely to positively review the attributes of a sustainable product that has relevant environmentally friendly contributions. The research presented that “non-environmental attributes of the [environmentally friendly] product were rated more favorably than those of the product being described as being similar to the overall product category,” meaning that environmentally friendly products are generally likely to be rated higher as a whole than their counterparts.

Consumer evaluations of products are influenced by the values they hold.

In a comparison study between popular products and environmentally friendly products, researchers found that consumer evaluations are only affected when the product is described in a way that may highlight a goal a consumer might hold. In other words, if a product is described as environmentally friendly, a consumer concerned with sustainability is more likely to purchase it over the alternative, whereas if they are not aware of this difference, they will make their decisions based on different criteria. In the same vein, if a product is described as popular, consumers who are concerned with social acceptance are more likely to purchase it, whereas if the popularity of the product is not mentioned, they may choose a different product.

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