Consumer characteristics (demographics, cognitive and personality factors) can affect how consumers react to carbon footprint labels and the parts that make them up. Previous research shows that three common demographic characteristics affect ethics and food label choice; these are gender, age and education. The use of nutrition labels is higher among women, younger consumers, and those who are more educated. Consumers reading food labels should be more likely to read the carbon footprint labels on the packaging, leading to greater awareness of carbon emissions.
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Women use carbon footprint tags to make product decisions more than men. More educated consumers will use carbon footprint labels to make product decisions than less educated consumers. In addition, younger consumers use carbon footprint labels to make more product decisions than older consumers.
An individual variance variable that can play an important role in deciding carbon emissions is the locus of control. The locus of control (LOC) is the degree to which a person believes their behavior is internally motivated or controlled, dependent on their own actions or personal characteristics, outwardly beyond their control and as a function of luck or control of powerful others. Bierhoff et al. Finding that people who are more likely to be altruistic have higher internal LOC levels, while Singhapakdi and Vitell found that higher internal LOC levels indicate increased moral identity.
The researchers found that the internal environmental LOC is related to recycling levels, while an external environmental LOC is related to the exemption of people from sustainability responsibility. These results show that consumers with higher internal LOCs will focus more on carbon emissions, especially on aspects of their control such as recycling.
Consumers’ interest in carbon emissions throughout the four phases of the product life cycle is governed by the locus of control. In this, consumers with a higher level of internal locus of control will pay more attention to the carbon footprint label than those with a lower level of internal locus of control. And consumers with a higher level of internal locus of control will pay more attention to the recycling part of the carbon footprint label than those with lower levels of internal locus of control.
The symbolic aspect of moral identity and a general need for social approval must influence a consumer’s decisions involving their carbon footprint. Consumers are often more involved in decisions about matters that are important to them, particularly with regard to environmental awareness, which is likely to trigger one’s moral identity. The literature states that positive firm results occur when there is a perceived harmony between the firm’s products and the individual consumer regarding social issues, but it does not occur when there is a disconnection between the CSR values of the firm and its customers.
One reason for these findings may be related to the consumer’s moral environmental involvement. Moral identity is triggered when it becomes apparent for those with a higher level, for example the fair trade label on coffee imposes a higher ethical obligation on consumers to buy more. The availability of products with lower carbon emission levels compared to other products can trigger the consumer to show a higher symbolic moral identity and reach a higher level of social approval.
Consumers with higher levels of symbolic moral identity will place more emphasis on carbon footprint labels when making product decisions than those with lower levels of symbolic moral identity. At a basic level, previous research implies that firms must exceed their customers’ expectations in order to benefit from their CSR. Therefore, consumers who want a lower carbon footprint will place more weight on their carbon footprint levels.
Lack of approval in expectations can disproportionately affect firms that consumers perceive as more moral. For example, Ben and Jerry’s can influence locally (using local farmers whenever possible), nationally (sustainable forestry for paper packaging) and internationally. Therefore, customers can expect such firms to have higher carbon footprint reduction levels. Thus, these firms may face higher penalties for a larger carbon footprint compared to firms that did not previously anticipate consumers’ carbon footprint levels. Additionally, these same firms may need to substantially exceed the industry average before gaining any benefit from consumers.
The Effect of Consumer Expectation
Consumers’ previous expectations of the manufacturer’s carbon emissions will mitigate the impact of a product’s perception of the emission level on purchasing decisions. A product with the same level of carbon emission will be preferred more if the customer has low expectations compared to the situation where the expectations of the customer are high.
Similar to social approval, it is the impact peers can have on choosing a carbon footprint tag. Researcher Griskevicius et al. They investigate people’s unconscious copying behaviors in the context of sustainability at length. Examples include normative social behavior in which the desired behavior is affected by reporting the level of positive social group behavior to the decision maker in areas such as energy use or hotel towel reuse.
Just informing people about sustainability issues seems to have little effect on behavior, but peers within a group can positively or negatively affect another individual’s use of carbon footprint labels. Group cohesion should increase confidence and increase belief in balances. Therefore, group adoption of carbon footprint labels should increase belief in more questionable parts of the label, such as carbon sinks, auditing the 6C recommendation.
The cultural group should also have a significant impact on the adoption of the carbon footprint label. Collectivist cultures are tight-knit and members take care of the interests of the group as a whole. The interest of such cultures in sustainability has increased. Nevertheless, due to the high, initial attention level of carbon footprint labels in a collectivist culture, it is thought that the impact of a pro-sustainability subgroup in a collectivist culture may not be as significant when compared to a similar group. Of course, this can be predicted with a more individual culture.
Another moderate influence on the role of peer influence in the adoption of carbon emissions is the socio-economic status of a group. Obviously, the price should be more important for low-income groups, but how will the economic disadvantage affect the response to carbon labels? Economically disadvantaged groups may not find sustainability as relevant to them as other issues. Therefore, the overall significance of social pressure should be less for economically more disadvantaged groups.
The more they pay attention to carbon emissions in similar products, the more attention will be paid to individual carbon emissions. Collectivist cultures place more emphasis on carbon emissions than individualistic cultures. Group adoption of carbon footprint labels will reduce belief in the effectiveness of carbon sinks. As the adoption of carbon footprint labels by the group increases, so will the emphasis placed on carbon sinks.
Cultural style will soften the relationship between peer influence and attention to carbon emission labels. As social collectivism increases, the influence of a peer group will decrease. In addition, the economic level of a group will soften the relationship between peer influence and the emphasis on carbon emission labels. The higher the level of economic disadvantage, the less influence a peer group will have.
An additional impact on attention to a carbon emission label may be the intended use of the product. Hedonic or experiential purchases are more attractive than utilitarian or functional, economic-based purchases. Since utilitarian purchases focus on product use, the more utilitarian a product is, the more attention will be paid to the use phase of the carbon footprint label.
The use part of the carbon footprint label will carry more weight for the utilitarian than hedonic products. Frequently purchased products are often selected using simple selection heuristics and quick decisions are made. Therefore, carbon footprint labels on frequently purchased products will play less of a role in the decision-making process with frequently purchased products. Also, as the frequency of purchase increases, the carbon footprint label will play less of a role in product selection.
Author: Ozlem Guvenc Agaoglu