Consumers Views on Green Consumerism

Subject: Environment
Pages: 26
Words: 6891
Reading time:
30 min
Study level: College

Executive Summary

Environmentally friendly behaviors comprise the efforts of an individual to reduce the negative impacts, which might cause harm to both physical and natural environment. This can only be achieved by decreasing the amount of resources used and the energy used in production. In addition to that, individuals can use materials that are anti-toxic and also decrease the amounts of wastes generated. One type of behavior that is environmental sensitive is the “green purchase behavior”. This behavior can only be observed among those consumers who keenly scrutinize products labels, use bags and soaps that are biodegradable and also detergents that are natural. Furthermore, these consumers buy products exhibiting packaging materials that are biodegradable and declines to buy from restaurants where there is use of non-biodegradable packages (Minton & Rose, 1997; Schwartz & Miller 1991). Green purchase behavior of the consumers has received great attention from academicians. Before, the demographics of the consumers under research study were widely used. However, the current literatures have based their focus on various variables such as perceived consumer effectiveness, environmental concern, environmental collectivism and knowledge. From the viewpoint of various researchers, both environmental concern and awareness have widely increased since the 1970s. However, a gap still exists in terms of attitude (Kilbourne & Pickett, 2008)

Despite the social responsibility and consumerism growing concern issues both in the industry as well as in academia, the research on the effect or investigation on these challenges have not yet been fully explored. This is in reference to purchasing behavior of the consumers both in terms of micro and macro issues. Micro issues expounds on fairness on business practice whereas macro issues touches on environmental consumerism practice. Investigation on these areas is quite limited. However, there exist some studies which have focused on the ethical issues and consumerism issues which impacts significantly on the purchasing behavior of the consumer. Various strategies are used by companies to show how sensitive they are to the environment. One of these strategies is the use of green or environmental advertising. The market for green advertising is growing rapidly. However, green advertising needs adequate tools for it to succeed. Without these tools, marketers cannot succeed with green advertising. In addition to that, there tools are not adequate enough to measure various characteristics of the consumer such as their environmental intentions, behaviors and attitudes. Therefore, the study will focus on determining consumer’s views on green consumerism and how they apply to general decisions where consumer goods are concerned


In the current business environment, the concept of societal marketing, social responsibility and business ethics has become one of the greatest concerns in the market environments. Business enterprises are not superior in market environments. The wave of consumerism has promoted the privileges and the rights of the consumer in the market place. They have the chance of expressing themselves vocally. Nevertheless, the previous studies highlight the need for a thorough study on the behavior of a consumer. Consumerism and ethical issues widespread concern amongst consumers has been addressed in marketing literatures. Little attention has been directed towards green consumerism despite the growing concern on environmental friendly products ( Mintel, 1999). Currently, marketing and business practitioners and academicians have focused their attention to business ethics. On the contrary, much of the researches conducted have based on marketing activities (Ferrell & Gresham, 1985; Ferrel, Gresham & Fraedrich, 1989; Hunt & Vitell, 1986; 1982). On the other hand Uusitalo & Oksanen (2004) argues that, despite corporate social responsibility and business ethics gaining attention from academicians, marketing and business practitioners in recent years, there is still minimal empirical research with regards to customer perspective on ethics.

In the 1990s, it was common to hear of phrases such as “the Earth decade” or “decade of the environment.” During this year, environmental and social concerns determined the purchasing decision of the consumer (Prothero, 1996; Menon et al, 1999). In this period also, firms with the urge of remaining competitive in the market began to incorporate these evolving concerns in their decision-making and marketing agendas (Straughan & Roberts, 1999; Rivera-Caminio, 2007; O’Shaughnessy, 1988). Much of the research being done has focused on the correlation between the environment, marketing and consumer behavior. The focus has been divided into two categories. For instance, there is increased awareness among the public on environmental aspects. Secondly, there is an increase in green marketing activities and environmental responsibility. Consumers nowadays are more concerned about their surroundings. This has perfectly reflected in their purchasing behaviors. As a result, consumers have begun to purchase products that are environment friendly. This trend has engineered the resurfacing of a completely new set of consumers commonly referred to as ecological or green consumers.

Green Consumer Market Segmentation

In the early 1970s, authors such as (Kassarjain, 1971; Fisk, 1973; Kinnear et al., 1974) attempted to develop a link between the environment and marketing. Authors such as Webster 1975; Kilbourne & Beckman, 1998) in their first editions focused their study on consumers that were environmentally concerned. After a great era of intense activities in terms of activity revolving around environmental queries, there increased concerns in legislations and the governments put in place measures to protect the environment (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995; Baksi & Bose, 2007). As far as green marketing conceptual aspects are concerned, Kilbourne (2005) agrees that huge developments have been experienced in this study. As a result, the researches are highly fragmented and very specific. Furthermore, their aims are common and their objective is to identify consumer environmental consciousness or coming up with a scale that will enable them to measure consumer level of environmental concern. Ideally, Green marketing has been defined as “the holistic management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying the needs of the customers and the society, in a profitable and sustainable way” (Peattie & Charter, 1997, p.389). With this definition, market segmentation and market orientation appears as factors that needs more attention from marketers. The increasing concern of industries and firms joining the green market in order to suitably segment their market, identify their target markets and come up with perfect positioning strategies.

Criteria for Green Segmentation

The process of market segmentation comprises of a variety of variables that are used to assign people to groups that are homogenous. The segments identified are easily defined with respect to descriptive observable characteristics such as demographic characteristics or geographic location. Difficulties in identifying suitable segmentation criteria result from the fact that numerous segments are not easily detected in market environment in their original form. This section aims to provide an overall view of the variables used and their segmentation strategies. The major focus will be on the socio-economic/ demographic, behavioral and psychographic criteria. In addition to that, segmentation criteria will be included. All these criteria will be linked with variables on environment. The variable on age has achieved a lot of attention from previous research conducted on green marketing (Anderson et al., 1974; Samdahl and Robertson, 1989, Roberts, 1996; Jain & Kaur, 2006; D’ Souza et al., 2007). From these studies, various conclusions were reached. For instance, some authors point out that, there is no relationship between environmental behavior/ attitudes and age (Kinnear et al., 1974).On the other hand others argue that, there exists both a negative and significant correlation (Anderson et al., 1974; Zimmer et al., 1994) whilst others claims that there exists a positive and significant link between behavior, environmental sensitivity and age (Samahl & Robertson, 1989; Roberts, 1996).

The assumed development of gender attitudes, skills and roles has triggered many researchers to contend that women unlike men are in the best place to present pro-environmental behavior (Straughan & Roberts, 1999). However, the outcomes obtained in reference to age variable have not often yielded similar outcomes. For instance, some studies are in agreement when concluded that women are more concerned and aware of the environment in comparison to men (Berkowitz and Lutterman, 1968; Webster, 1975; Banerjee & McKeage, 1994). As stated by Mainieri and Barnett (1997), in comparison to men, women are more pro-environmental since they purchase more green products. Furthermore, they take part in the package separation for purposes of recycling. However, these writers did not identify any significant distinction between the two genders with regards to their taking part in activities that aim to conserve natural resources or take part in environmentalist groups. Populations groups exhibiting high education and training levels and can access information easily are expected to portray greater environmental concerns. For instance, it was proved by Granzin and Olsen (1991), that there is a positive correlation between education variable and “ walking for environmental reasons” rather than using a car variables. Besides, the explanation of these variables capacity has not been confirmed by research conducted by Maineri and Barnett, 1997.

Generally, it is believed that environmental sensitivity is positively correlated with income. However, this has not been adequately justified. Individuals exhibiting high level of income can increasing accommodate the marginal rise in the costs of purchasing green products (Straughan & Roberts, 1999). The significance of analyzing social class has been emphasized by Hooley et al. (1998). This is because individuals believe that the process encountered while adopting a new product or service in the market and also life style varies depending on an individual social class. However, social class as a variable has been less adopted in green marketing studies. The principal reason behind such a scenario might be related to the previously made criticism. For example, people claim that social class as a variable has the likelihood of creating some confusion. Some variables that are related with social class are such as education level, income level and an individual occupation. However, if these variables are used in isolation they do not define or constitute such a class. Similarly, this king of grouping assumes an individual vertical professional mobility (O’Shaughness, 1998).

Since early 1970’s, variables highly correlated to personality have been applied in the segmentation studies. However, with reference to Cornwell and Schwepker(1995), some variables(two in number) have been given much focus than others. The two variables are such as the locus of control and alienation. Locus of control helps in describing the length to which an individual conceives that an improvement or a reward highly depends on his or her behavior. Alienation describes an individual feeling as a result of being kept aside from his culture, society or community. The former variable was examined in various studies related to environmental concern (Henion & Wilson, 1976).

Consequently, alienation as a variable has been applied in studies concerned with pro-environmental behavior (Balderjahn, 1998). The values of the variables can also be incorporated in the psychographic segmentation. The studies conducted by both McCarthy and Shrum (1994) and those of Homer and Kahle (1988) aided in the clarification of the interrelationship between environmental behavior, attitudes and values. Homer and Kahle(1998) studies provided support empirically on the hierarchical impact of the “ value-attitude behavior” model. This was in reference to ecological foods. Those purchasing ecological products valued the internal orientation values of the product. Internal orientation values are such as fun, happiness and self-realization, a sense of self respect and completeness. On the other hand, individual not purchasing this type of products channeled all their attentions towards the external values of the products. The external values are such as safety, being respected and sense of belonging.

Green consumer attitudes must express their concern on environment (Kinnear et al., 1974). This is because environmental concern is directly related by the behavior of the consumer. Nevertheless it is not highly correlated with the behavior of the consumer (Cornwell & Schwepker, 1995). It was conclude in the Balderjahn studies that, individuals in possession of environmental positive attitudes practiced more in the consumption and purchasing of green products. The purchasing decisions of the green consumer barely depend on their perceptions about the environment, despite them having a significant influence on their buying patterns (Vlosky et al., 1999). Various authors have investigated the correlation between purchasing of products and consumer feelings towards the environment (Rios et al., 2006) or to some extent the intentions of utilization (Alwitt & Berger, 1993). There is likelihood that the more consumers are closely involved with the environment, the more their tendency of buying green products (Schuwerk & Lefkokk-Hagius, 1995).

According to Antonides and Van Raaij (1998), environmental concern is the consumer attitude that is related to consequences of environment. The attitude is greatly influenced by individual experiences, personal direct experiences and media communications. The outcome is environmentally friendly behaviors that are founded on various conditions including product performance, price, environmental knowledge and social norms. In environmental concern formulation of a measurement scale, it was emphasized by Kinnear and Taylor(1973) that an individual environmental concern level depends on his or her behavior and attitude. However, Maloney et al. (1975) views environmental concern as the level of knowledge, emotionality and readiness to change an individual behavior.

Various literatures points out that the perceived Behavior Control (PBC) is also a significant factor when it comes to determining the relationship between environmental behavior, attitude and knowledge. The above named variables are essential in reflecting the degree at which the consumers conceive that their participation might be valuable in environmental conservation. Consumers exhibiting high level of PBC have an extreme environmental behavior (de Pelsmacker et al., 2002). As suggested by Straughan and Roberts (1999), people who are more concerned about what happens to the environment will only be proactive when their actions can solve the existing environmental problems. Environmental Knowledge is how much an individual knows about the issues affecting the environment (Chan, 1999). Marketing research has highly recognized the variability of environmental knowledge as an ingredient that impacts on each and every phase of the decision process of purchasing. Knowledge is concept that is extremely significant. It affects the manner in which information is gathered and organized by consumers. Furthermore, it determines how services and products are evaluated by the consumer (Laroche et al., 2001). The available empirical evidence that supports the environmental knowledge influence on behavior is remarkably contradictory (Martin & Simintiras, 1995). On one side of the coin, it is reported that there is no vital correlation between constructive environmental behavior and environmental knowledge (Maloney & Ward, 1973).

Environment affect” is the degree of emotionality that an individual displays in relation to environmental issues” (Chan, 1999). Studies conducted support the environmental behavior and environmental affect positive association. Additionally, individual equipped with inadequate knowledge on the environmental might show emotional attachment to the environment. For instance, the Chinese consumers are known to demonstrate a strong environmental affect, however, their efforts to defend the environment from any harm is still insignificant. Ecological consciousness is also one of the factors known to precede pro-environmental behavior (Schlegelmilch & Bohlen, 1996; Mostafa, 2007). Ecological consciousness can only be sustained by a “new consumer” who is ready to shift his or her nature concern while making consumption decisions. Besides, it is evident that there is no consensus about the aforementioned concept conceptual boundaries. This is because, on one side there are heterogeneous approaches that utilize it for instance political science, sociology and psychology, whilst on the other hand, it is applied to distinct contextual such ad energy saving, recycling and green products consumption. For purposes of synthesizing this information, the table below shows the principal criteria and various segmentation variables that can be used by organizations to segment the market of green consumer.

Criteria Variables
Demographic Habitation type, social class, occupation, income, subculture, education, family dimension, gender, religion and age
Psychographic Values, personality, motivation and lifestyle
Behavioural Brand loyalty, benefits, purchase behavior, product usage, knowledge and attitude
Environmental PBC, Knowledge, concern, commitment, affect, subjective norms, environmentally friendly behavior, ecological consciousness, information search, green products purchasing behavior, recycling, willingness to pay, environmental claim sceoticism

Data source: Paco & Raposo (2008, p. 369).

Green Advertising

Numerous countries in the world have actively adopted the green concept. The concept aims to limit the negative environmental impacts of by-products and modernization. These two if not well managed results to natural resources deterioration and pollution. In the United States of America for instance, the Obama administration reported to have utilized one hundred and fifty US.Dollars for developing clean energy technology, renewable powers and hybrid cars (Desan, 2009). The Asian region is embracing the power associated with “going green” as the citizens and the local governments are being disturbed by environment threats (Lee, 2008). For purposes of promoting green campaigns, governments are channeling most of their resources to green advertising. Green advertisement helps in addressing the connection between the biophysical environment and the product. The advert promotes a green life style. Moreover, it promotes societal responsibility corporate image.

Definition of Green advertising as a concept

The advertisements aimed at promoting organization’s ability, ideas, services or product for purposes of helping or reducing the harm caused to the environment is what is known as green advertising. Living green allows individuals to behave in an environmentally, eco-friendly and responsible manner. When an individual understands about the growth and the development of the issues affecting the environmental is what is referred to as environmental awareness. As such, the effects of human activities to the biophysical environment are evaluated. Environmental attitude is the amount of knowledge acquire by consumers in order to behave favorably or unfavorably towards the environment (Rashid, 2009).

Green research is based on two areas. The first one is advertising and the other is consumer based (Shrum, McCarty & Lowrey, 1995). Consumer based focus on the attributes of the consumer. This attributes differentiates them in terms of their level of environmental consciousness. As concluded by the aforementioned authors, green consumer is that whose purchasing behavior is determined by his or her environmental concerns. While there have been a significant number of researches conducted on consumer attributes (Banerjee, Gulas & Lyer, 1995; Schlegelmilch, Diamantopoulous & Bohlen, 1994), there are no agreement about the green consumer true profile (D’Souza, Tachyon, & Peretaitko, 2007). In the early 1990’s is when the interest in green research substantiated. However, the studies were limited in terms of green advertising (Mayor, Scammon &Zick, 1992). The current research has paid a lot of attention on what consumers perceive to be green products and environmental claims(Cox, 2008; Haytko & Matulich, 2008; D’Souza & Taghian, 2005). From the green advertising chronological report conducted by Chase and Smith (1992), six percent of the consumers interviewed assumed that environmental advertising were “very believable” whilst 90% of the respondents claimed that environmental advertising were “ somewhat”, “not very” or “ not at all believable.”Kilbourne’s (1995) supported this study via concluding that consumer green credibility is relatively low.

D’Souza and Taghian (2005) established that there is a distinction between green advertising attitude between those that are highly concerned about the environment and those who are not. Studies have focused on the effectiveness of using cognitive persuasive strategies in green marketing (Kinnear, Taylor & Ahmed, 1974). Most of these studies have paid attention on the environmental consciousness and awareness influence on consumer attitude towards the environment (Hines, Hungerford & Tomera, 1987; Stone, Barnes & Montgomery, 1995). Nevertheless, literatures have identified few cognitive factors such as environmental knowledge when illustrating cognitive factors effectiveness on consumers environmental purchase behavior (Monhemius, 1993; Davis, 1993; Smith et al., 1994). Ongkrutraksa (2003) studies have focused on the use of emotional appeal to promote environmental products. The major focus has been directed towards the attitudes of the consumer towards the environment, green advertising, and perceived consumer effectiveness (PCE) and response of consumer to environmental advertising. From the study, it was evident that the use of fear appeals is effective in directing consumers to behave in an environmental friendly manner.

Despite people being in possession of little knowledge concerning the environment, they are still concerned about the well being of the environment. For instance, some portrays a strong emotional attachment to their surroundings (Ling-yee, 1997). Through the utilization of previously used methods with the combination of new items, Haytko and MMatulich (2008) conducted a study with an aim of updating the research conducted previously on green advertising and consumer’s behaviors. The study principal objective was to tap consumers’ attitudes towards environmental behaviors and green advertising. Some of the new things included in the study were such as change in the world climate, use of energies that are renewable , use of cars that are environmental-friendly and eco-labeling. According to the study, there is a distinction between environmental apathetic and environmental groups on most of the questions dealing with green advertising. Individuals in the environmental responsible category are characterized with attitudes that are positive towards green advertising in comparison to those in the category of environmental apathetic. Also investigated in the study is consumer attitudes based on gender differences. This was done in reference environmental responsible behavior and green advertising. From the results, it was evident that, female consumers are positive about green advertising and most of them are environmental activists.

Authors such as Habib, Idress and Khursheed (2001) conducted studies on factors included in environmental advertising and impacted significantly on consumer purchasing intention. The results indicated that, most of the consumers are adequately exposed to broadcast and print media, but the most preferred is the television. The study also confirmed that, most of the consumers are conscious about their environment and that is why they have decided to go green by buying green products. In his study on eco-labels in Malaysia, Rashid (2009) found out that an individual who is highly concerned about the environment has a greater tendency of purchasing a greener product. As such he or she can be made aware of the product through the utilization of eco-label. The eco-label has significant information about the product thus making it possible for the customer to determine whether the product is environmental friendly. In summary, advertising campaigns can be vital in empowering people to embrace the greener campaign.

Literature Review

Consumerism is a force that protects the interest of the consumer in the market arena. Consumerism shield consumers from business injustices and unfair practices r. According to Quazi (2002) and Kaynak(1985), consumerism addresses both macro and micro issues. Micro issues are such as misbranding practices, advertisements that are misleading, unfair pricing and deceptive packaging, whilst micro consumerism issues are such as health care system, environmental pollution and antinuclear issues. The significant macro issue of consumerism is environmental consumerism practice. This issue has received much attention from researchers because of its impact on the purchasing behavior of the consumer. “Consumer purchasing behavior” is the process of decision making and people acts involved in purchasing and consuming of the products. In addition to that, it can mean the ultimate consumer purchasing behavior (Assael, 2004). Other authors such as Berkman and Gilson (1978) argue that, consumer purchasing behavior is the chronological activity from the intention of buying to the real purchasing behavior. Consumer purchasing behavior is influenced by his or her ethic behavior. Consumer purchasing behavior highlights the expressed behavior of the consumer regarding the ethical or consumerist issues while buying a product.

Environmental Consumerism

Environmental consumerism is defined as the environmental consciousness of the consumer while buying any product. According to Webster (1977) arguments, environmental consumerism has over centuries concentrated on personal attributed measurement with regards to perceived efficiency and social responsibility. The practice of environmental consumerism can also be titled green marketing. Green marketing is the product promotion or marketing based its environmental performance or its environmental improvement. In most cases these products affects the well being of a human being and natural environment. The skepticism of consumers with reference to the practice of environmental consumerism has dispirited them from taking part in pro-environmental and ethical purchasing. The purchasing behavior of the consumer is influenced by companies acting in an ethical and responsible manner. In that case, these firms offer sound or environmental friendly products.


As a result of existing aggressive competition in the business environment, companies are using all means to convince their consumers that their products are of the highest quality. Unfortunately, some regulations on commercial advertising permit some firms to exaggerate the characteristics of their products. Skepticism has been highly promoted as a resulted of free market systems. Those consumers who view environmental claims to be overstated in order for companies to increase their profit margins might rethink their purchasing decisions. Individuals or pro-environmental groups evoke overstated claims, which they agree are theoretically correct, but incorrect practically (Ellen et al., 1991). From the studies carried out by Chase (1991), showed majority of his participants labeled himself or herself environmentalist. In that case, they reported of their active participation in consumptions that are environmental friendly. The consumption behaviors were such as buying or recycled packaging or products or using bags that are biodegradable. Furthermore, most of the research respondents (73%) had wide knowledge on environmental packaging safety labels. However forty seven percent of these respondents were not at all satisfied with the information advisers’ accuracy regarding the products impacts on the environment (Manieri et al., 1997).

According to various literatures, numerous consumers from distinct countries such as the People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are skeptical when it comes to environmental claims by various companies. It is argued by Calfee and Ringold (1988) that consumers who are skeptical by nature with regards to environmental claims can only be convinced if there exists evidence that goes against their beliefs is adequately demonstrated. From the view point of Obermiller et al. (2005), there exists no linkage between purchase intention and advertisement. This is only true when consumers are uncertain with regards to the advertisement. Skepticism has been found to negatively impact the consumers purchase intention.

Owing to frequent crises in European agro-food system, the general public in European continent have lost hope and confidence in food security and safety in the entire continent. However, sustainable production system and sustainability in food production has reported a tremendous increase in all levels of food chain supplies and agriculture. These increases have as a result elevated the potential influence of sustainable claims regarding customer’s purchase decisions. In general terms, sustainable consumption is constantly focused on a specified decision making process that considers customers social responsibility as well as individual’s needs such as amenities, value and flavour. Customers’ reliance to the marketable products is extremely critical for the success of any sustainable product (Roberts, 2005). The current reports have indicated significant rise in the number of customers who knowingly buy sustainable and ethical products which includes animal friendly products, organic products as well as fair trade products. Nevertheless, the daily trend of consumption is to a great extent directed by customers’ habit, convenience, institutional, and social norms as well as individuals’ response to a certain product.

The significant driver of transformation in sustainability entails the reflexivity tendency amongst the post-modern society in which society practices and activities portrays a reflection of the prevailing cultural and social norms and beliefs. The collective cultural beliefs are thereafter passed on to the next generation through discourse and narrative. A reflexive customer constitutes customers who are not only a social activist but also an individual who is committed for individualised risk assessment. The notion is to a great extent enforced by globalisation processes which distances individual customers to environmental and social context regarding the products in the market. Globalisation also reduces the government capability to implement effective control of the involved risks (Bisonette and Contento, 2001, p. 235).

In the last two decades, ethical customers have demonstrated direct contact between social issues and food consumption habits. In general term, all ethical customers take the responsibility of the society; therefore expressing their responsibility through demonstrating impressive purchase behaviours. Food constitutes a very critical focus for reflective customers. This is due to the fact that, consumption entails a negotiation between personal will and will not in individuals body (Carrigan and Attalla, 2001). Therefore, any customer choice on shopping and food is purely based on health concerns, money, value, appearance, taste, and convenience rather than being motivated by altruistic factors such as environmental preservation and animal welfare. Additionally, other factors that have a considerable role in determining the customers shopping entails family planned budget, family balanced diet as well as satisfaction of children’s demand. In countryside, most customers link the food they eat with the environment which produces the specified type of food. They are also concerned with benefits acquired from the existing beliefs and culture. On the other hand, it has been confirmed by studies that few individuals are concerned about the content of the food they consume. In addition to that, they are not mindful of the impact of food consumed by other society members. This results to minimal connection between linkage between food consumed and their impacts on the general welfare of the environment, trade and animals. Due to this, it is clear that, most of the customers are not entirely open to sustainable consumption of food (Shrum, McCarty and Lowrey, 1995, P. 78).

However, in the last few years, the number of customers interested on ethical issues has constantly raised. In modern days, most customers have the will and capability of turning out to be vegetarian as well as pay more for organic substances. They also committed toward reducing negative actions which may interfere with the existing ethics such as boycotting products from specified countries. Additionally, forty six percent claims to have the will to pay more for ethical products in the market. Moreover, purchasing local products has turn out to be an ethical issue in European continent through the incorporation of biologically produced products, favourable animal welfare, environmentally pleasant products as well integration of products for neighbouring community and economy. Most of the modern customers have the desire to try local foods with some condition. One of the common conditions for purchasing local products is the reduction of prices, conveniences, high quality as well as products accessibility (Chan, 2001, p. 798).

Despite of having the will and capability of being ethical, very few customers have the desire to put their will into actual purchasing habit. Despite of the emerging concern amongst customer on conventionally products most customers instil some severe condition before supporting the alternative habit. Practically, most of the cataloguing initiatives such as untreated foods, fair trade products, child workforce have less than one percent of the market share. Even though the customers’ interest on sustainable product is greatly increasing, the sustainable food market attracts those customers with precise profile. Generally, a principled individual in the society is a person who is at the mid age, have comparatively high income, well educated as well as a informed person and an all rounded individual. However, individual gender has very limited impact on ethical decision making process among customers. Additionally, demographic alone does not constitute the main determiner which defines a socially responsible person. Ethical customers are however determined by factors such as personality traits, behaviour, and attitudes.

Challenges of sustainable products consumption

The individual and relative factors offer the common barriers for sustainable purchases. In most cases, customers are more interested in purchasing earth substance food but they are not greatly interested in purchasing food substances which have barriers such as price, inconveniences and unavailability barriers. In the contemporary world, product cost appears to be the main obstacle for sustainable products. The prices of sustainable food are extremely too high thus causing negative attitude and perception to many customers. In 2008, the average premium foods in store for organic food were between 40% and 175%. In this circumstance, very few buyers were willing and had the capability of expensive food products. On the other hand, despite having the will and capability of buying sustainable food products, many customers lacked adequate information for encouraging them to buy a product at an extra cost (Kokkinaki and Lunt1997, p. 497).

Remoteness which exists between the consumption and production is another common barrier to sustainable food consumption. This has to do with lack of adequate knowledge amongst customers on agriculture practices and its food production process. It also entails lack of understanding on the insinuation food buying decisions on lower levels in food supply chain. Most consumers do not exhibit the ability of differentiating between food consumed and the supply chain. Others are not even concerned with knowing the sources of food they eat. This is due to the fact that, most customers do not have adequate knowledge and understanding on issues that revolve around food production and consumption. Inadequate information on sustainable food distribution does not only interfere with the food production process and agriculture but it also causes confusion on idea sustainability, as well as classification and matching logos. In most instances, classification and symbol are insufficient and perplexing to many clienteles therefore making them loses concentration on the essential messages. Lack of adequate information on food consumption has a credence attribute to food sustainability. It interferes with development of trust and authority on food substances. Limited information has also led to increased distrust on science-based governmental control systems especially in European countries (Ger, 1999, P. 276).

The other common barrier entails the unavailability of sustainable products in the market. This entails the scarcity of local food stores in the market. On the other hand, the available foods lack convenience and regularity on customers’ demands. The European continent residents also complain of non-continuous and limited sustainable product is some common purchasing point to many people such as supermarkets and hypermarkets. To counter the problem of sustainable food availability, the involved players ought to develop local outlets to supply sustainable food substances (Ellen, Weiner, and Cobb-Walgreen, 2001)

Theoretical framework

There are different models which help to explain the customer behaviour on sustainable food products. According to the current models, the regular contributors of customers’ behaviour in sustainable food consumption involve acquaintance, inspiration and requirements, ethics, and behavioural control (Iacobucci, 2001, P. 67). The theory of reasoned action is relatively crucial in explaining the behaviours of ethical customers. The theory states that, attractive attitudes and perceptions are in most cases succeeded by constructive behavioural interventions. The theory explains various situational and individual traits that explain the general consumption pattern as well as the existing attitude- behaviour gaps. The theory expounds on values, involvement, and perceptions as the main factors which drives customers behaviours on the type of food relevant for consumption.

Decision-making: utilization, behaviours, and attitudes

A helpful insight on sustainable products makes the foremost starting point for sustainable food consumptions motivation. In 2003, less than thirty percent of people globally have constructive attitude towards sustainable food products. The proportions were greatly interested with the source of food, the environmental stuffing, the availability of organic food products and lack of GMOs in the available foods. In many instances, sustainable products are assumed to be suitable to customers with reference to security, value, flavour, influence on environment, influence on individual fitness, originality, and input to the regional distinctiveness and market (Engel, Blackwell and Miniard, 2006, P. 67). From the existing literature review, it is evident that customers in most occasions are willing to pay for green products. However, majority cannot afford to pay premium prices for such products. Despite of having positive perception toward sustainable food products, a good number of people are passive in their customary role in supporting the improvement of animal welfare and environment.

Customers are primarily interested with their personalised issues when choosing their foods. They are always reluctant on the impact of their choice to the environment, global issues and countryside issues. There are diverse descriptions that reveal the gap that subsist among the customers’ real buying behaviours and the constructive mind-set and purpose of customers to purchase sustainable products (Robinson and Smith 2002, p. 78). Despite the availability of sustainable products in the market, customers are always influenced by other factors in choosing the food product to consume. The psychological variables such as beliefs, attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural controls have a remarkable independent impact on the choice of sustainable product. On the other hand, situational context have a more crucial impact on food choice more than environmental ethics. Therefore, individual and situation traits form the main gap that exists between the availability of the product in the market and the willingness and capability to buy sustainable food available in the market. A particular attitude explains a particular isolated behaviour.

Personal ethics, requirements, enthusiasm, and participation

Human values involve moderately steady beliefs regarding social appeal concerning particular existence mode and behaviors. Value demonstrates the objectives that motivate an individual as well as the most effective ways of achieving those goals. In making ethical decisions, customers are highly motivated by values and principle rather than by the projected consequences. The motivation which assists in the selection of sustainable products is severely influenced by customers’ personal value. Customers do not purchase sustainable products due to community benefit or environmental benefit but for their own personal benefit. Customers choice are provoked by the requirement to preserve time and funds, main concern on health requirements, safety, confidence, sense of being among the social group, to be recognized from others, need to exercise new expertise and searching for the most convenient and easy styles of living (MacGillivray, 2000, P. 156).

Perceived personal significant also known as involvement have significant motivational forces on customers’ choice. In many instances, involvement is instigated when a definite entity is alleged to be influential in achieving the vital principles, objectives, and requirements. Customers are motivated to use cognitive effort in decision making process in the situation of high involvement. Involvement aids in formation of perception, conviction and intent, choice on the time essential in decision making process, depth of configuration explore, and in fortitude of behavioural results such as shopping pleasure, several looking for behaviors, devotion, and regular usage of the manufactured goods, brand-commitment and brand-switching behaviors.

The existing literature review has linked personal value with sustainable behaviors. Sincerity, worth of universalism, kindness, impracticality, liberty, fairness, and accountability is linked with sustainable consumption whereas control, custom, sustainable consumption, pleasure-seeking, conventionality, safety, and objective are connected to a smaller amount of sustainability and less principled consumption model. The verification of informal impact linking some ethics and sustainable consumption pattern signifies that, the advertisement of the correct value in national institution and social settings has an impact in the attainment of the definitive objective of sustainable consumption. On the other hand, sustainable behaviors depend on specific factors that include specific attitude, habits, and preferences to engage in sustainable consumption (Dickson, 2001, P. 123).

Competence, information, and ambiguity

Availability of the necessary information on merchandise has a decisive input in decision-making process. In most cases, the information regarding sustainable food is inadequately communicated to consumers. This hinders them from making profound decision. The more complicated an information is and the less information available the more uncertain the customer make their decision. Uncertainty also makes an individual to use social information in decision-making exercise. Product labeling is one of the most effective ways of providing information to customers. However, some scholars have outlined certain contradictions on label perception and knowledge available concerning a specified product. On the other hand, product communication should concentrate on spreading factual information rather than on building an image on a product. In most cases, very limited people have a concrete idea on the component of the product in the market. Therefore, limited factual information and lack of transparent may lead to information uncertainty among different customers (Beharrel and Denisson, 2005, P.27).


From the study, it is clear that, most customers value the ethical aspects of products before purchasing them. There also exists a gap between the attractive attitudes toward a product and the intention of buying a specified product. The study attempted to expound on the existing gap between customers attitude and intention of purchasing a sustainable product. Before purchasing a sustainable product, the customers consider several factors, trademark, cost, flavor, component, expediency and credibility attitudes which comprise sustainability. Individual attitudes and situational characteristics which includes values, social norms, involvement, perceived certainty and perceived availability on customers intention and attitude has a considerable impact in customer decision on commodities to purchase. The study has also focused on the need and significant of developing concrete public policies and adoptable marketing recommendation aimed at stimulating the consumption of sustainable products especially among young people (Diamantapoulos, Schlegelmilch, Sinkovics, and Bohlen, 2003, P. 467). Personal traits such as perceived customer effectiveness certainty as well as sustainability have a very critical role in the development of positive attitudes towards a certain product in the market. The reduced availability of sustainable product in the market explains the reason behind reduced number of customer with an intention of buying the products despite having positive attitude towards a product. The linkage of value as explained in the theory with the aim of buying a product demonstrates the universalism and power of attitude in decision making exercise. In general, ethical consumption of food as well as sustainable food consumption is always stimulated by improving involvement, perceived customers effectiveness, perceived availability have a crucial influence on the choice of a product in the market.

Suggested area to be expounded on:-

  • Challenges of sustainable product consumption
  • Green consumerism significance
  • Green advertising advantages to companies
  • Why consumers have decided to go green
  • How companies are responding to consumers’ decisions to go green

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