Predicting Use of GoodGuide.com Consumer Product Sustainability Information Using VBN Theory and NEP Scale

Predicting Use of GoodGuide.com Consumer Product Sustainability Information Using VBN Theory and NEP Scale

Rebecca Angeles (University of New Brunswick Fredericton, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8147-7.ch012
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Abstract

The chapter focuses on the use of information provided by an Online Environmental Infomediary (OEI), GoodGuide.com, to advise consumers on the overall and specific sustainability attributes of personal care and household chemical and food products. This chapter seeks to predict the willingness of consumers to be influenced by GoodGuide.com information in their purchases and to influence others as well with this information using the Value-Belief-Norm (VBN) theory and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) scale. An experiment was applied to a sample of both undergraduate and graduate students at the Faculty of Business Administration, University of New Brunswick Fredericton, Canada. Data analysis using a series of stepwise multiple regressions was used in this study. Study results indicate the usefulness of both theoretical frameworks in understanding consumer predisposition to use OEI-provided information and the potential of social networking and use of mobile devices and apps in facilitating access and use of green information.
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Introduction

Concern for the environmental is one of the key issues of this time and while there has been considerable coverage of how firms can conduct themselves in a sustainable manner, there needs to be a proportionate focus on the role of consumers and how they should vote with their dollars to spur the production of green products. In this study, “environmental sustainability” of products is understood to be those attributes of physical products that render them harmless to the environment in the sense that the raw materials and the production processes used in making them, the consequences of consuming/using them in terms of the effects on individual buyers, and the processes used to dispose of them or recycle them do not pose any harm to society and nature.

This study focuses on the role of individual consumers in driving the production of green products, specifically, green products used in the home to which individuals have far greater physical exposure, and thus, potential health risks. But understanding beforehand what would make consumers do so is, perhaps, more important. Thus, this study looks at what are the appropriate values, beliefs, norms, and attitudes that might predispose an individual to undertake actions that favor “green” consumer behaviors.

Generally speaking, “values” refer to something that an individual holds with respect or importance, or could represent esteemed principles or standards of behavior. “Beliefs,” in general, represent a person’s views of what he/she holds to be true in reality or the scheme of things. “Norms” in the context of the study refer to what a group of persons hold as appropriate in terms of how an individual should act within a specific situation. “Attitudes” are a learned predisposition to respond to people or situations that individuals learn based on their beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world. Of specific interest of this study is to find out what would predispose a consumer to use sustainability-related information on consumer products shown on GoodGuide.com, an online environmental infomediary (OEI) that specializes on products used in the home, to inform their actual purchase of “green” products.

Understanding sustainability information pertaining to products, however, is a challenge in and of itself.

Remy and Huang (2012) interviewed consumers who considered themselves environmentally informed as they went about seeking and using environmental sustainability information relevant to their purchase of electronic products. This exploration uncovered two key issues salient to the use of this kind of information in the purchase process --- the need to reduce the complexity of the relevant information needed to evaluate a product and the need to establish trust in the information. In today’s marketplace, consumers are challenged to find relevant and useful information they could use in making the most routine and repetitive purchases for a wide range of items. But it is the purchase of household products and consumer packaged goods that exposes consumers’ health and well being to all sorts of risks. Information technology (IT) can be used as a tool to address the need to have access to sustainability information regarding a wide range of products through the use of OEIs like GoodGuide.com. This chapter examines the results of an empirical study of consumers (i.e., both undergraduate and MBA students of a Canadian university) that seeks to predict their willingness to be influenced by the information posted on GoodGuide.com in various ways in making their purchases of ordinary and typical household goods using the Value-Belief-Norm (VBN) Theory and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) Scale.

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Issue, Controversy, And Problem: Sustainability Product Information And The Consumer

Both the need to reduce complex information and the need to trust product sustainability information are addressed by the information available from GoodGuide.com, an OEI that provides sustainability performance ratings for thousands of consumer products in a form that is useful at the point of purchase. Godfrey (2014) defines OEIs as third party information dealers that mediate between consumers and firms and provide both parties information they need and value. An OEI like GoodGuide.com is a good example of implementing Goleman’s (2009) idea of “radical transparency” in the product’s supply chain by revealing salient sustainability related information that informs the consumer about things like raw materials used in the production of the product and the sustainability of the business operations involved in the manufacturing process itself. OEIs like GoodGuide.com should also take advantage of social networking and mobile apps that can assist consumers make an “intelligent” green decision at the point of purchase.

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