I believe this is the last required blog entry for the consumer module, so I thought I should sum up and talk about the broader picture of how consumptions, individual consumers like us have affected the world environmentally.
Though it is not a common topic that we talk about as consumer psychologists, but it is important to recognize the issues as due to the fact that perceptions of consumers are constantly under influenced by pro-ecologically campaigns. Whether the information passed on by media, individual activist groups and governments, views have been affected to certain products and services and to what extend these goods engage in environmentally friendly behaviour.
Consumers around the world are generally showing an increasing interest in and becoming more concerned with environmental issues (Hodgkinson & Innes, 2000). Many companies these days are aware that consumers are concerned about environmental issues and thus it is not surprising that they want to be seen to do what they can do to ensure that their products represent those beliefs. When companies are involved in whatever things that has to do with the environment, they often advertise such facts enthusiastically. For example, GAP has printed a statement at the bottom of their bags that they contain ‘15% post-consumer recycled material’ while Primark’s bag state that they are ‘made from 100% recycled material’, slogans such as ‘care about the environment’ also was printed on the Starbucks bags and M&S’s recycled suit which claimed to be the world’s most sustainable suit!
Up till now, you might probably think, ‘Umm indeed, companies actually tend to show off how involved they are with these kinds of global issues’, they are very efficient whenever they promote what they are good at, but the question is, are these strategies effective? Though as mentioned above, consumers are concerned about environmental issues, and some studies say women are more concerned than men, but products that are high on ethical are rare to be the top selling brands in their product categories. (Grankvist, 2008). This demonstrates that what consumers’ purchase is unrelated to their own value systems.
How exactly we as consumers perceive environmentally friendly products then? According to some research papers, it appears that there are cultural differences to how people perceive products that are friendly to our environment. For example, according to Homma in 1991, it has been suggested that German consumers view humans as an integral part of the ecological system while Northern Americans have a desire to master their environment. As Luchs, Walker Naylor, Irwin & Raghunathan in 2008 suggests that, no surprise that consumers in the USA perceive ethically superior products as being less effective than those that are not. Whereas in the Europe, it appears they have a more positive view of pro-environmentally friendly products than the Americans. For example, Swedish consumers have been found to have positive attitudes towards organically produced products (Magnusson, Arvola, Kovisto Hursti, Aberg & Sjoden, 2001). Again, attitudes do not always predict behaviour, i.e. “consumers’ purchase is unrelated to their own value systems”, but this perhaps can be explained that environmentally friendly products are not always easily identified and thus it is sometimes difficult for consumers to choose which product to buy.
So, if you think from a different direction, i.e. “outside the box”, instead of concentrating at how to increase consumptions of environmentally friendly products, but to really think about, can non-environmentally friendly consumption be reduced?