Framing Private Sphere Consumer Behavior: Likelihood of Using GoodGuide.com Information as Explained by the Value-Belief-Norm Theory and NEP Scale

Framing Private Sphere Consumer Behavior: Likelihood of Using GoodGuide.com Information as Explained by the Value-Belief-Norm Theory and NEP Scale

Rebecca Angeles (University of New Brunswick Fredericton, Fredericton, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSESD.2016040102
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Abstract

This study investigates characteristics of consumers likely to be influenced by the information provided by an online environmental infomediary (OEI) GoodGuide.com, which advises consumers on the overall and specific sustainability attributes of personal care and household chemical and food products. The value-belief-norm theory and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) scale were found useful in describing consumers more likely to be “green.” A series of logistic regressions, multiple regressions, and t-tests were used in this study. Study results indicate the importance of the value-belief-norm theory and NEP scale in understanding how consumers would choose to use GoodGuide.com information in making their green purchases and social interactions using social networking and mobile apps.
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1. Introduction

In order to act in the interest of the environment, consumers will need to possess the appropriate environmental knowledge. This study focuses on the need for specific household product information in order to make the best product purchases based on the sustainability information for both the product and manufacturer. In this case, the sustainability information provided by the online environmental infomediary (OEI), GoodGuide.com, is the source of specific environmental information of interest. Research supports the idea that consumers with the appropriate environmental knowledge are more likely to act in a way that supports sustainability (Gram-Hanssen, 2010; Flamm, 2009; Pickett-Baker & Ozaki, 2008; Mostafa, 2007; Thogersen, 2006; Hines et al., 1986).

While it is not the main focus of this study, environmental knowledge has a pivotal impact on the formation of “green” attitudes and consequently, the consumer’s “green” purchase behavior (Barber, et al., 2009; Flamm, 2009; Arcury, 1990).

Thus far, though, the perception is that green marketing initiatives have failed due to misconceived marketing practices that have only provoked consumer cynicism and disillusionment (Peattie, 2005). Consumer have claimed, instead, that these are corporate “green washing” efforts or false claims made to make the firms appear sustainable without appropriately reengineering business operations (Brennan & Binney, 2008). More recent forms of Internet-enabled media for sharing/exchanging green information such as social networks, blogs, online consumer reviews on e-commerce sites, etc., have now emerged and empower consumers to influence each other (Smith & Brower, 2012). This is good because now, consumers have more reliable and accurate sources of product/service information from other consumers who have actually tried and used these products/services. Thus, this electronic version of “Word of Mouth” (WOM) is far more persuasive that relying on corporate green marketing information that has been perceived to be self serving and untrustworthy (Smith & Brower, 2012).

Another more recent alternative to these channels of green information is the online environmental infomediary (OEI) defined as a third party information integrator and dealer that mediates between the firm and the customer and could be oriented so that it provides either one or both with the needed information (Hagel III & Singer, 1999). The operative concept here is “third-party” firm which more or less guarantees objective information gathering and assessment activities behind the OEI operations. Educating consumers to understand and use sustainability information to inform their purchases is one area where information technology can play a role in the form of OEIs. This study investigates one such infomediary, GoodGuide.com, an OEI that provides sustainability performance ratings for thousands of consumer household products in a form that is useful at the point of purchase. The use of such information websites, however, needs to be understood from the point-of-view of consumers and what might motivate them to use the information posted in an OEI like GoodGuide.com.

This study’s key objective is to investigate the attributes that would clearly identify study respondents who are more likely to be influenced by the information provided by GoodGuide.com in a consumer’s purchase of personal care and household chemical and food products using the concepts of the value-belief-norm (VBN) theory and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) scale. This is the first study to use these frameworks in determining a consumer’s willingness to influence others and be influenced by the information on the sustainability of products provided by GoodGuide.com.

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