Predictors of pro-environmental behavior: A goal based approach

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Purpose of the study: The ultimate goal of advertisements, especially product related advertisements is to encourage consumption. When the concept of sustainability is introduced into these ads, which encourages ‘cautious’ consumption, there comes an element of conflict of ideas within the advertisement. Hence, there are two possible messages (or inferences) consumers get from such advertisements. 1. Because it is sustainable, I can use more with less impact: This could be viewed as the ‘opportunity for extra consumption’, which might lead to a rebound effect(Greening et. al, 2000), and over-consumption. The opportunity for extra consumption is in favor of an individual’s intrinsic desire to increase his profits. 2. Sustainability demands minimum consumption, and hence minimum consumption of this product.: This is the perceived intention of sustainability focused advertisements (Pelletier & Sharp, 2008) However, this message is ultimately against the organizational goals of increasing product consumption. The inference consumers make from these advertisements could very well be affected by how or to what extent they process the information in the advertisement. Social psychological literature points out that “information consistent with a preferred conclusion would be analyzed less critically than information inconsistent with a preferred conclusion”(Ditto & Lopes, 1992) This would mean that consumers having a pro-sustainability attitude would process these advertisement differently compared to consumers without a sustainability attitude. In addition, the difference might also arise from the cognitive involvement of the consumers processing the advertisement, which is also being addressed in the paper. Research method: The proposed study tries to examine the effect of variation in interpretation of sustainability advertisements in consumer decision making and purchasing behavior in relation to sustainable products. The paper utilizes a scenario based survey method, where consumers answer questions after viewing a sustainability focused advertisement, to understand how consumers would interpret advertisements of two different products( car-for hedonic and light bulbs for utilitarian products) under different levels of cognitive involvement. In addition, the survey would measure consumer’s attitude and purchasing behavior to examine their influence in the process of interpretation of advertisement. Predicted Findings: The consumer’s sustainability attitude is expected be positively correlated with sustainability focused interpretation of the advertisements, and this relation would be moderated by the cognitive involvement. It is also expected that, the more sustainability focused the interpretation is, consumers would have higher purchasing intentions for the product. Implications: The significance of this paper lies in the fact that, intention to purchase an environmental friendly product need not be a good indicator of environmental friendly behavior with regard to utilization of product. Post purchase behavior could sometimes turn out to be exact opposite of purchasing behavior in terms of sustainable consumption (Hertwich, 2005). Hence, it would be crucial for marketers and policy makers to understand which of the conflicting messages does consumer infer from sustainability based advertisements, in order to predict their post-purchase behaviors.


Social and Behavioral Sciences; Social Work; Law: 3rd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)


Sustainable consumption, Goal-based framework, Purchasing intention, Green hotels, Pro-environmental behavior