Over the past few years, there has been particular interest paid to the environment and the amount of waste we are releasing into it. However, for most consumers saving the environment doesn’t coincide with choosing environmentally friendly packaging. For most saving the environment stops at recycling.
Which is why studies have shown growing interest in the correlation between environmental and ethical issues and consumer studies have shown growing interest in the correlation between environmental and ethical issues and consumer behaviour. And have found that there are many aspects to be considered when analysing the correlations.
The main question being: “Why aren’t consumers going “green” when choosing a product?”
A study completed in Finland by scientists Joonas Rokka and Liisa Uusitalo from the department of Marketing and management at the Helsinki School of Economics showed that consumers geared towards “green” packaging are more worthwhile to target than previous studies have shown.
Previous studies have focused on the moral component of choosing one product over another when in fact it should have been the different aspects of the product that should have been compared. When choosing a product, many variables come into play such as the price, functionality, aesthetic and the brand, amongst others. It may seem that the purchase is less complicated because grabbing a product off a shelf sometimes happens in a split second, but all of these aspects are taken into account. The difference of choosing one product over another comes down to whether you as a consumer value -for example -the price or the brand more.
And the environmentally friendly aspect was not shown to have a large role when faced with these other variables. However, when labels are placed on the package notifying the consumer that it is environmentally friendly, consumers seemed more interested in buying that product. This could be due to the moral aspect of now knowing that the product is good for the environment. One example of the impact a label can have.
Using functional drinks either wrapped in paper or plastic wrapping within the same price range, the study compared trade-off variables when purchasing a product. The brand, the price, the package and finally the convenience of use. The participants were given questionnaires to determine what they valued when purchasing a product. And it was found that when comparing the choices participants made, the relative importance of the product had a 34% impact on the choice of product, price had 35%, reseal ability/convenience 17% and the brand 15%.
However, when the preferences of the products were compared with still the same variables, a third of participants preferred a “green” packaging. Price, brand loyalty and convenience were only important to 23%, 24% and 22% of the participants. The study also found that there was no demographic correlation between the results. All of the participants were ordinary consumers. Unlike in previous studies where they were ethically and environmentally sensitive consumers. This showed that there wasn’t a single social or ethnic group that was interested in the environment. And therefore a large group of people could be targeted.
All in all with the growing concern for the environment and what would hurt and help it, it is important for manufacturers to consider what they could do as well to help those consumers who want to make a difference. Many feel that their choices are too marginal to make a difference. The lack of supply of these “green” products also prevents them from purchasing what they would morally prefer. This study and many others have shown that it is worth targeting those consumers who are willing to choose environmentally friendly products.
Rokka, Joonas, and Liisa Uusitalo. “Preference for green packaging in consumer product choices–do consumers care?.” International Journal of Consumer Studies 32.5 (2008): 516-525.