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
Date Written: July 17, 2017
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: Suggested Citation