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«Marketing Research and Consumer Behaviour Department THESIS SYNOPSIS Melinda Majláth Psychographic Differences between Environmentally Friendly and ...»

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Marketing Research and Consumer Behaviour Department


Melinda Majláth

Psychographic Differences between Environmentally Friendly and Nonenvironmentally Friendly Consumers

synopsis of Ph.D. dissertation


Dr. Ágnes Hofmeister Tóth

Professor, head of department

© Melinda Majláth


1 Research Background

1.1 Definition of green marketing

1.2 Aim of the dissertation

1.3 Definition of environmentally friendly behaviour

1.4 Variables Included in the Research and Their Hypothesised Relationship

2 Research Questions and Methods

2.1 Hypotheses and their testing methods

2.2 Method of gathering data and sample description

3 Results of the Dissertation

3.1 Measurement of the broader sense of environmental friendly behaviour

3.2 Importance of environmentally friendly product attribute: the conjoint method and its results

3.3 Difference in psychographic variables between respondent groups

3.4 The analysis of the relationship between the relative importance of the environmentally friendly product-attribute and the psychographic variables

3.5 Which are the variables which differentiate environmentally and non-environmentally respondents the most – the results of discriminant analysis

3.6 When theories and actions are consistent

3.7 The limits of the research

4 Main References

5 Publications of the Author

1 Research Background The Sixth Environmental Action Programme of the EU contains the environmental tasks for the period between 2001 and 2010. Its priority areas are: mitigation of climate change, protection of nature and wildlife, the promotion of research on the relationships between environmental pollution and human health, and the improvement of the efficiency of waste management. Therefore, as the starting point of my dissertation I accept the fact that our epoch faces such serious environmental problems at both the national and global level that the solution thereof permits of no delay in order to sustain the existence of humanity as well as to improve the individual quality of life.

In addition to governments and social movements, economic actors have an important role to play in the protection of the natural environment: both companies and consumers since – through their everyday decisions – they can promote or hinder solutions to environmental problems within the framework of the developed regulatory system. Traditional marketing is also blamed for ecological problems, because “the consumer is king” approach leads to the overconsumption of goods;

• the system ignores environmental factors;

• the stress is on the primacy of the satisfaction of needs by material goods and social • status is demonstrated by material goods;

it is characterised by short-term profit maximisation and turnover centricity;

• product life cycles are shorter and shorter due to the resource-wasting fashion.

• (Nagy, 1997, p. 143) In developed countries, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been active since the 1970s.

Stressing this is fortunately considered as mainstream in economic sciences, so the new approach has brought changes in judging the role of marketing: in the social marketing concept, the emphasis shifts from egoism to the long-term interests of the consumer and social welfare, while profitability is expressed as a long-term objective. The wider scope of my dissertation, green marketing, can serve this objective, when the corporate approach becomes environmentally friendly.

1.1 Definition of green marketing

I use the definition of marketing in a broader sense as a starting-point, one which defines marketing as the philosophy of the company and which concentrates on the needs of consumers. (Bauer and Berács, 1992) During the secondary research I faced the difficulty of a lack of a coherent definition of green or environmental marketing. There is still no single, widely accepted definition of green marketing, although the original definitions date back to the 70’s.1 However, we can detect significant differences in the meanings of these definitions based on their interpretation, whether green marketing is (1) a definitely new concept, which partly denies the aims and tools of traditional marketing concepts and therefore creates an entirely new construct or (2) green marketing is only a broadened view of traditional marketing with additional environmental aspects as a potential way of improving the financial performance of a company.

In my opinion, the first approach would be the real key to solving the main issues of the environmental problems caused by economy, so the goal system of the company should be rethought. In this redefined goal system, priority should be given to sustainability and the interests of the whole society. While these are in line with the long-term interests of individuals, they can however be in contradiction to the typically short-term view of firms and consumers.

From the ’70s ecological green marketing had been flourishing in developed countries, concerning itself with those marketing activities, which (a) could be the cause of environmental problems or (b) could solve environmental problems - according to Henion and Kinnear (1976). In this early period attention was paid to specific environmental problems, whose solutions were searched for separately, which is why only a few products, companies and industries were affected by this new trend.

Great environmental catastrophes of the 80s, turned attention even more to the interaction between economy and nature. Instead of pipe-end solutions (the subsequent neutralization of pollutants) firms tried to use technologies to create fewer pollutants throughout the entire manufacturing We can find green marketing Peattie és Charter, 1994, sustainable marketing Fuller (2000), ecological marketing, environmental marketing 1,environmentally-friendly marketing Nagy 2004, 144. old.,ecomarketing expressions, or as a mix of them ecological green marketing Henion és Kinnear (1976), environmental green marketing and sustainble green marketing, while in some cases it is difficult to find a difference in their content.

process, called clean technologies. In this period researchers tried to identify the segment of green consumers as they thought consumers were able to distinguish competitive products based on their environmental performance. (Peattie, 2001) However in the late 90s green developments had slowed down; the literature speaks about meeting the Green Wall. On one hand, the negative attitude of the media toward “green” companies (their trustworthiness, the problem of green “painting”) and the growing scepticism of consumers toward green advertisements created a burden. On the other hand, cheap and easy green practices and solutions – especially those which caused cost-reduction - had come to an end, so new steps toward being more green needed lots of investments and sacrifices from the firms. More radical changes had lower levels of support and were therefore more difficult to realise. Moreover, doubt emerged on the market related to what kind of products were proved to be truly green and the identification and reach of the green consumer segment seemed to be very difficult in practice – similarly to the contradictory results of studies in this topic

1.2 Aim of the dissertation

Marketing experts often meet the contradiction that while consumers are increasingly demanding environmental protection, their behaviour does not really reflect this attitude: they are not aware of the environmental impact of their activities, they are not knowledgeable of green alternatives (and even if they are knowledgeable, they do not consider these green alternatives available and feasible); and they frequently think that action should be taken not by them but by other institutional actors, mainly the state and companies. Therefore, the purpose of the dissertation is to examine the possibilities for environmentally friendly marketing within the current economic system through a better understanding of environmentally friendly consumer behaviour.

The examination of environmentally friendly behaviour requires an investigation into a very complex system of connections with mutual correlations, where the harmonisation of social and individual interests becomes necessary. My objective is to obtain pragmatic findings during the research, so in addition to taking into account the complexity of environmentally friendly behaviour, I also put stress on environmentally aware purchase decisions, since it is likely that the companies applying environmentally friendly marketing are interested mainly in this issue.

The two basic questions are:

(1) What inherent differences in psychographic factors can most accurately indicate the propensity to environmentally friendly behaviour?; and (2) What similarities and differences do we find when we consider environmentally friendly behaviour in its wider, full complexity and when in a narrower, singledimension context, as in the purchase of a single environmentally friendly product?

The wider interpretation ascertains the complexity of the behaviour in a more authentic way and calculates with trade-offs between the individual behaviour dimensions, while the narrower approach can identify more efficiently those factors that are hidden in the background of a given activity. This latter, narrower behaviour dimension relates to the importance of environmentally friendly product features in a given purchasing situation.

Through testing the hypotheses we are able to identify what psychographic features it is worth trying to influence in order to develop a market for green products: the perceived individual effectiveness, the attitude towards environmentally friendly behaviour, and environmental knowledge or ecological ideology.

In order to achieve this goal, I apply an approach that is new in research of environmentally friendly consumer behaviour: I not only consider the issue based on the consumers’ opinion and attitude, but I also investigate the behaviour in a concrete purchasing situation, allowing me to get a more realistic picture.

1.3 Definition of environmentally friendly behaviour

Basically two different interpretations of environmentally friendly behaviour can be found. One of these interpretations contains those definitions that examine green behaviour in its complexity, thus giving a broad picture of consumers’ behaviour – not only as a consumer (for example: Ellen, Weiner and Cobb-Walgren (1991); Berger and Corbin (1992); Stern, 2000).2 Ellen, Weiner and Cobb-Walgren (1991) examined environmentally conscious behaviour, which consisted of 6 different areas: buying environmentally friendly products, waste disposal (recycling), membership in green organizations, donating to green organizations, attending public hearings, and telephoning or writing to public officials.

Berger and Corbin used three different scales: consumer behaviour, willingness to pay behaviours and regulatory support behaviours. Stern (2000) can differentiate four different types of environmentally significant behaviour: (a) environmental activism, (b) non-activist behaviour in the public sphere, (c) private-sphere environmentalism, and (d) other environmentally significant behaviours, such as the decisions of an employee at a workplace which can also influence the state of the environment.

In the other group we can find definitions which focus mainly on one dimension of behaviour especially in marketing related studies – typically buying intention and willingness to pay for green products. Chan and Lau (2000) Straughan and Roberts (1999) Laroche, Bergeron and BarbaroForleo (2001) 3 However, it must be emphasised that environmentally friendly behaviour can occur as a result of other motivations (such as energy and water conservation for financial reasons, or routine rooted in socialization process, and therefore practically unconscious); thus not only environmentally conscious behaviour can be environmentally friendly. Therefore, my further aim is to categorize consumers based on their behaviour and environmental consciousness and to explore the main characteristics of consistent and inconsistent consumer groups.

1.4 Variables Included in the Research and Their Hypothesised Relationship

Analysis of environmentally friendly behaviour requires a complex, multidimensional approach;

however, the representation of reality can not be adequate, so significant simplification is needed.

Stern (2000), accomplishing the classification of environmentally significant behaviours, suggested exploring the motivation behind these different behaviours separately, though the significant interaction between behaviour forms demands their joint examination. For example, if somebody believes that with his/her own purchase he/she can influence the state of the environment, he/she may also believe in the power of civil green organizations, or may support governmental green initiatives. Even within private-sphere behaviour, we can identify trade-offs: if somebody can not afford to buy bio products, he/she may still recycle, may try to save energy and so on. Therefore, in

my dissertation I try to use both approaches:

focusing on purchase behaviour, I will analyze the relative importance of environmentally • friendly product attributes and their relationship with other psychographic factors in a special buying situation, Chan and Lau (2000) defined eco-friendly purchasing behaviour, which was measured on a 5-point frequency scale by two statements: “I buy the products because they are less polluting”, and “I switch to other brands for ecological reasons” (p. 343.) Straughan and Roberts (1999) examined ecologically conscious consumer behaviour on a 30 statement questionnaire. Statements covered subjects on energy conservation, recycling, purchasing recycled products and preference for green products. This means that beside purchasing, behaviour after purchasing and usage also play an important role in this view In the study of Laroche, Bergeron and Barbaro-Forleo (2001), willingness to pay for environmentally friendly products was central.

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