Why go green? A look into motives for buying green products
Liobikienė, G. (2016). "Theory of planned behavior approach to understand the green purchasing behavior in the EU: A cross-cultural study." Ecological Economics, 125, 38-46 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.02.008
It's good for you. It's good for the environment. You'll feel better about yourself. These are just a few of the reasons that may compel someone to purchase an environmentally friendly, or "green" product. Over the past few decades, green products have gradually emerged as a niche in the market, accounting for 4 percent of worldwide market share. Green purchasing is particularly relevant in the EU, where all countries have committed to sustainable consumption. However, while studies have been done on green purchasing behavior in individual countries, it is unclear what the determinants of green purchasing are on a larger scale. What, then, are the primary motives for green consumption across EU countries?
To answer this question, a group of Lithuanian researchers, led by Genovaitė Liobikienė of Vytautas Magnus University, analyzed data from the 2012 Eurobarometer survey, which asked respondents from across the EU multiple questions relating to environmental and green purchase behavior. The authors applied the "Theory of Planned Behavior," which identifies the key factors that contribute to the purchase of green products (GPs): knowledge and confidence in GPs (i.e. how much you know and are confident about the environmental impact of a product), subjective norms (i.e. if buying GPs is the right thing or a good thing to do), convenience, and the importance of price. Using regression analysis, the researchers determined whether there was a significant relationship between the factors and one's tendency to purchase GPs. In addition, the authors also examined the relationship between economic development (measured in GDP per capita) and green purchase behavior.
Several interesting insights came from the analysis. First, although EU countries have publicly committed to sustainable consumption, countries like Austria, Germany, and Slovenia are much more likely to purchase GPs than others like Bulgaria, Italy, and Romania. What's more, a country's economic development did not significantly affect green purchase behavior — citizens in richer countries do not have a tendency to buy more green products.
What did have an impact on GP purchases were certain factors behind the theory. Viewing GPs as a "good" thing made consumers more likely to purchase GPs in all countries. Similarly, with the exception of Estonia, knowledge and confidence in GPs had a significant positive effect on GP consumption in all EU countries. In contrast, convenience and price were only significant determinants of GP consumption in a handful of countries, like Sweden and the Czech Republic.
For the study, the researchers also looked at cultural norms — including the level of belief in masculinity, individualism, etc. — and their relationship with green purchase behavior. While no direct correlation was found between any cultural norms and green purchase behavior, there were significant relationships between certain cultural norms and factors that directly impacted GP purchases. More specifically, uncertainty avoidance (the extent to which people seek predictability) was found to be positively related to one's knowledge of GPs and belief in subjective norms, while individualism (a trait that emphasizes independence and competition) had the opposite effect.
Understanding the underlying factors that motivate consumers to purchase green products is important for marketers who wish to capitalize on the green trend, and policy makers who want to encourage the social benefits that environmentally-friendly products can provide. Based on the findings above, marketers of GPs should work to increase awareness of GPs and their social benefits, to establish GP purchases as the "right" thing to do. In addition, policymakers have a strong incentive to ensure that green labeling policies are fair and robust. This will encourage confidence in GPs and promote their consumption. Ultimately, if the authors' findings are capitalized upon, green products may become more prominent.