Consumer Perceptions of the Social vs. Environmental Dimensions of Sustainability

Journal of Consumer Policy, 40(3): 245-277. doi:/10.1007/s10603-017-9356-x.

42 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018

See all articles by Jesse R Catlin

Jesse R Catlin

California State University, Sacramento

Michael Luchs

William & Mary

Marcus Phipps

University of Melbourne

Date Written: July 17, 2017

Abstract

Prior research on sustainable consumption has addressed a variety of issues yet is characterized by mixed results. Researchers have often treated sustainability as a unidimensional construct, overlooking important differences and thwarting a better understanding of consumer response. We demonstrate that consumers perceive the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability as psychologically distinct in theoretically and practically important ways. Specifically, consumers associate the social dimension of sustainability more with affective, short-term, and local considerations and the environmental dimension more with cognitive, long-term, and global considerations. We identify and explore these distinctions in a qualitative pilot study, which subsequently motivated development of three hypotheses. We provide evidence supporting these hypotheses in a series of five studies. Our findings enable a reinterpretation of prior equivocal research, serve as a foundation for future research, and provide guidance for how policy-makers can tailor policy and related communication efforts depending on whether the focal issue is related to social versus environmental concerns.

Keywords: Social, Environmental, Sustainability, Policy communication, Consumer Choice

JEL Classification: M30, M31

Suggested Citation

Catlin, Jesse R and Luchs, Michael and Phipps, Marcus, Consumer Perceptions of the Social vs. Environmental Dimensions of Sustainability (July 17, 2017). Journal of Consumer Policy, 40(3): 245-277. doi:/10.1007/s10603-017-9356-x., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3138668

Jesse R Catlin

California State University, Sacramento ( email )

Sacramento, CA 95819
United States

Michael Luchs (Contact Author)

William & Mary ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.wm.edu/faculty/directory/marketing/luchs_m.php

Marcus Phipps

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053
Australia

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