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Purpose -This research paper seeks to test whether Eco-friendly attitude impacts Eco-friendly behaviour. It also explores if Environmental awareness has a mediation effect on the relationship between the two. The aforementioned attributes, that is, Eco-friendly Attitude, Eco-friendly behaviour and Environmental Awareness, form the three constructs under the study.
Design/methodology/approach – An online questionnaire conducted amongst students pursuing doing a post graduate course in Business management or equivalent inquiring about their attitude towards the environment, awareness and purchasing behaviour regarding eco-friendly products. The four-step method for mediation analysis was used to analyse the results of this questionnaire.
Findings – Environmental awareness fully mediated Eco-friendly attitude and Eco-friendly behaviour. The measures were collected through a self-reported, cross-sectional questionnaire. This study used a single sample, consisting of urban, educated young adults. Future research needs to obtain a more diverse set of respondents across different age groups and demographic profiles. Influence of culture and geographic location has not been brought into the study. Also, the questionnaire was administered through only one medium, the internet. Future studies can be designed to improve upon these limitations of the research to get a more clear understanding of consumer behaviour in this context in India.
Practical implications – There is not much research done in India on purchasing behaviour of the target demographic segment with regard to eco-friendly products. This research can be of help to marketers looking to understand the degree of awareness, outward attitude and resultant purchasing behaviour of educated, urban, young adults in India. Marketers can use the findings of this research to better implement green marketing strategies and understand consumer behaviour of this demographic profile with regard to such products.
Keywords – Environmental protection, organic products, young educated population, India
Paper type – Research paper
The world is currently facing complex environmental problems that have resulted in environmental degradation. Western studies have evidenced that consumers in the USA and Western Europe have grown more environmentally conscious in the 1990s (Curlo E., 1999). Recently, green consumerism has started to gradually emerge in the Asian regions in a significant manner (GuraË˜u, C. et al, 2005)
Supporters of environmental protection tend to be younger in age (Martisons et al, 1997). Given the anticipated life span of this age group, the cultivation of its green purchasing behaviour may go a long way in reinforcing behavioural commitment for the next few generations, especially in the developing Asian economies, where a surge in income and purchasing power seems to be in the making.
India, one of the biggest economies of the world and a growing economic powerhouse of Asia, suffers from dangerously high levels of air pollution, poor water quality, high levels of exposure to severe traffic noise and high levels of garbage disposal. Compared with what has been happening in the West, consumers in India are just at the stage of green
awakening. The use of eco-friendly products is still not very prevalent in the country, though there seems to be a huge potential for such goods in the country.
Our research is based on the consumer behaviour towards environmental-friendly products. We have studied the impact of attitude towards eco-friendly products on purchasing behaviour, and whether environmental awareness has any effect on this relationship.
Environment consciousness, environmental responsibility, “going green” and so on. These are the terms in which marketers are increasingly talking about, and selling, their products today. The subject of ‘Environment’ is attracting interest of the marketers, and this is not really a new phenomenon. It has been doing the rounds since the early 1970s. A plethora of products have been launched with the ‘eco-friendly’ tag. Various studies have looked into the relationship between environment and marketing (Kassarjian, 1971, Kinnear et al, 1974 and Fisk, 1973). Marketers are interested to know how much premium a consumer is willing to pay for buying an eco-friendly product. This type of consumer behaviour is primarily influenced by a person’s attitude and awareness.
However, not all regions have been successfully studied for the impact of such attitude and awareness. International green marketers have expressed that the unavailability of market information in Asian countries often becomes a major hindrance to the success of international expansion of their green products (GuraË˜u, C. et al, 2005). Many international green marketers have failed to implement effective market segmentation in their overall marketing strategies due to insufficient information in Asian countries (Keegan et al, 2000). A topic which has not been properly explored is young consumers’ green buying behaviours and factors that affect such behaviour. Young adults constitute a large citizen group and have the potential for a powerful collective force in society for environmental protection. Past studies have found that young people are more willing than older generations to accept new and innovative ideas (Ottman et al, 2006).
ECO FRIENDLY ATTITUDE
The past few decades have seen a phenomenal rise in environmental concerns. Concern for the environment has increased significantly, and, at the same time, people’s values and attitudes towards nature has changed substantially. Studies conducted in different countries have showed an awakening interest in green products or increase in environmentally friendly attitudes (Barber, 2010). Environmental concern transformed into the specific activity of Green Consumerism emerged in the latter half of the 1980s. Surveys show that there has been a permanent change in the attitude of consumers.
One of the functions of knowledge is to help maintain a strong attitude. Attitude is typically considered strong when it is resistant to change and persistent over time. Thus, knowledgeable people with a strong attitude are careful, expert processors of information.
The level of awareness influences the attitude and behaviour associated with green consumerism (Mittal, 1989). Recent researches suggest awareness in terms of their extent to which the consumer views the product itself as an important decision making variable affecting environmental behaviour (Dodd et al, 2005, Kolyesnikova et al, 2009 and Yuan et al, 2005). Another study has conveyed that an important component of environmental conscious consumer behaviour is the need for more information to be revealed about the relationship between products and the environment (Peattie, 1985). Increased awareness with green information sources has been shown to influence consumer purchasing decisions (Peattie, 1995). Americans have begun to develop an environmentally-conscious mind-set, with half of them saying that they do not have the information needed to be involved in increasing green behaviour and are less knowledgeable about which products and packaging materials are recyclable (GFK, 2007).
A study conducted to examine the awareness and attitude of Zambian farmers towards environmental degradation and the relationships of these with a set of beliefs used to evaluate their perceived capacity and take corrective action towards improving the environment showed that awareness of environmental degradation is significant in depicting environmental self-efficacy and behaviour (Î² = 0.38; p < .001). It was seen that the capacity of farmers to make decisions to improve the situation was enhanced through greater awareness about degradation. This led to greater involvement in programs related to land management and a more positive environmental behaviour. Awareness amongst individuals regarding degradation and its adverse consequences increased likeliness of them doing something about it in order to improve the present situation (Î² = 0.36, p < .001) (Lewis, 1993).
The findings of several studies reinforce the notion that Proactive Environmental Behaviour, like most other behaviours, is to a large extent situation-specific (Roozen and Pelsmacker, 1998).
By studying Danish consumers buying organic products, it was found out that there is a relationship between values, environmental attitudes and consumer behaviour (Grunert & Juhl, 1995 cited by Björk 1995: 66). However, the correlation between such attitude and consumer behaviour is not always high. In geographical studies it has also become evident that environmental knowledge is not something that explains ‘spatial behaviour’. This is explained by saying that behaviour is influenced by intentions, which are in turn influenced by attitudes, and further which are influenced by beliefs about social norms (Whalmsley & Lewis, 1993). Hence, attitude is just one factor among others influencing consumer behaviour.
In case of many consumers, preferences for environmental amenities are exhibited either directly through polls and surveys or indirectly by participating in outdoor activities, environmental organizations or causes, undertaking conservation, recycling, or other stewardship activities (Torgler et al., 2008).
At the same time it was also being suggested that the complexity of environmental knowledge on attitude can affect purchase behaviour, whereby the more knowledge a consumer has about an issue and a product the better the attitude predicts the willingness to purchase (Frick et al. (2004), Krarup and Russell, 2005)
In existing literature, environmental attitude is commonly understood as a cognitive judgment towards the value of environmental protection. Contrasting results have been found between environmental attitude and behaviour. While some researchers have claimed a positive correlation between environmental attitude and environmental behaviour (Kotchen and Reiling, 2000), others have concluded that the relationship is either moderate or tenuous (Davis, 1995). The contradictory results in studies of the relationship between environmental attitude and behaviour suggest that further studies are needed to confirm the relationship between environmental attitude and behaviour.
Thus, based on the view in majority of the literature reviewed, our hypothesis is:
H1 : Eco friendly attitude positively impacts eco friendly behaviour.
Though it has been debated whether awareness affects attitude or attitude affects awareness. But it is important to note that after developing an attitude, the awareness in terms of recognizing and observing different things about the topic comes into picture. This is especially valid for a country like India where these things are increasingly gaining understanding.
Let us understand the impact of attitude on awareness through this simple example. A student has a class on environmental issues. To be specific, the teacher discusses an example of how pesticides enter the human body through food consumption and organic foods can help in reducing these toxic levels and lead to a healthy living. The student develops a positive attitude towards organic foods because of this knowledge. This positive attitude will lead to him subconsciously noting organic foods when in the superstore. This is what awareness is.
Eco friendly attitude has an impact on the level of environmental awareness.
Thus, based on the literature, our hypothesis is:
H2 : A positive attitude towards the environment will positively impact the level of environmental awareness.
Eco friendly behaviour is defined to the consumption of products that are beneficial to the environment (Mostafa, 2007). Past studies have examined what factors affect environmental behaviour in general (Johnson et al., 2004). According to these studies, environmental awareness can be an important factor towards determining eco friendly behaviour. (Chan, 2001).
From the aforementioned, our hypothesis is:
H3 : Environmental awareness positively impacts eco friendly behaviour.
In this study we intend to explore the relationship between eco friendly attitude and behaviour. It has been generally seen that though environmental attitude is fairly high now, eco friendly behaviour does not show such high levels. This has been referred to as the attitude – behaviour gap. (Alwitt and Pitts, 1996). Many studies have been conducted to explore this gap and what variables can be used to explain this. Environmental awareness is one of those variables. (Chan, 2001) This study explores the concept of environmental awareness as a factor that mediates the impact of attitude on behaviour.
With reference to these literary studies, our hypothesis is:
H4: Environmental Awareness mediates the relationship between eco friendly attitude and eco friendly behaviour.
Certain literary works have evidenced that women reported significantly more participation in general environmental behaviour and specific green consumption than men (Maineri, 1997). Certain sample studies of western countries have shown that females express more positive attitudes towards the environment than males do (Tikka, 2007). Additional evidence also provides that women report stronger environmental attitudes than men across age and across 14 countries (Argentina, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, the United States and Venezuela) (Zelezny, 2000). A recent research conducted also claimed that female adolescent consumers scored significantly higher in environmental attitude (Lee, 2009). Equal numbers of males and females expressed a positive attitude towards organic foods according to study by (Dahm, Samonte and Shows, 2009). This finding varies somewhat from the literature, which identifies females as being more aware and having stronger attitudes about organic foods.
Based on these literatures, we have stated the hypothesis by breaking it into three sub-hypotheses:
H5/A: The impact of eco friendly attitude on environmental awareness is more in case of Indian female consumers than their male counterparts.
H5/B: The impact of environmental awareness on eco friendly behaviour is more in case of Indian female consumers than their male counterparts.
H5/C: The impact of eco friendly attitude on eco friendly behaviour is more in case of Indian female consumers than their male counterparts.
RESEARCH DESIGN & METHODS
OPERATIONALIZATION OF CONSTRUCTS AND VARIABLES
The figure shows a diagrammatic representation of our research model. The definition of each of the constructs according to our interpretation is mentioned below.
Figure 1: Diagrammatic representation of the model
ECO-FRIENDLY ATTITUDE (EFA)
Eco-friendly attitude (EFA) aims to measure the cognitive judgment of the respondent towards the value of environmental protection. It is the prerequisite to eco-friendly behavior (EFB). This is because the person should exhibit some environment friendly attitude before he takes definite steps towards improving the environment thus is considered as the independent construct in the model.
ECO-FRIENDLY BEHAVIOR (EFB)
Eco-friendly behavior (EFB) measures respondent’s readiness to take specific actions for environmental protection. These include consumer’s willingness to buy organic products, products which are certified ‘environmentally-safe.’ High eco-friendly attitude may or may not lead to eco-friendly behavior and hence latter forms the dependent construct under study.
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS (EA)
Environmental awareness/consciousness (EA) measures the awareness level of the respondent about environment and current environmental problems. A person with high environmental awareness realizes that an effort is required, both at an individual level and organization level, to improve general environmental conditions.
The variable gender has been obviously taken into two categories male and female.
Content Validity was performed on the questionnaire before floating it to the sample respondents. The questionnaire was administered to eminent faculty of XLRI Jamshedpur and two social entrepreneurs. An email with the link to the survey was sent across along with a document explaining the constructs used. The explanation consisted of a small definition. The document also explained the research model and the hypotheses under test.
Then a sample of 180 students in the age group 20-30 years, doing a post graduate course in Business management or equivalent participated in a questionnaire which inquired about their attitude towards the environment, awareness and purchasing behavior regarding eco-friendly products. The sample consisted of 102 male and 78 female respondents. The questionnaire was administered through the Internet and responses were directly received.
For the purpose of Content validity questions were asked in the following format:
“I often buy products that are labelled as environmentally safe” measures Eco friendly Behaviour on a 5 point Likert scale.
For actual analysis constructs were measured by a five point Likert scale wherein respondents were asked to mark their responses from 1 (”Strongly Disagree” or ”Not at all” ) to 5 (”Strong Agree” or ”definitely”). The scores in each of the constructs was a direct sum of all the individual items
ECO-FRIENDLY ATTITUDE (EFA)
Respondent’s eco-friendly attitude was measured with a five-point Likert scale (1 indicates ”Strongly Disagree” & 5 ”Strong Agree”) developed by Sweeney et al. (2001). The scale had 7 items. A sample item is ”It is very important to raise environmental awareness among Indians”.
ECO-FRIENDLY BEHAVIOR (EFB)
Respondent’s eco-friendly behavior was measured with a five-point likert scale (1 indicates ”Strongly Disagree” & 5 ”Strong Agree”) developed by Sweeney et al. (2001). The scale had 6 items. A sample item is ”I often buy products which are labelled environmentally safe”. Items 2, 4, 5 and 6 are reverse coded and hence these items are added after subtracting them from 5.
ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS/CONSCIOUSNESS (EA)
Respondent’s environmental awareness was measured with a five-point Likert scale (1 indicates ”Not at all”& 5 ”definitely”) developed by Vlosky et al. (1999). The scale had 5 items. A sample item is ”I believe that environmental information on packaging is important”.
Gender was directly measured from a single question. The entire questionnaire is presented in Appendix A.
We have first of all conducted a reliability test for each of the three scales. Then for the purpose of our mediation analysis we have used a four step method that was developed by Kenny et al. (1998) and Baron and Kenny (1986) for the purpose of mediation analysis. This consists of four steps. In the first step we have used Eco Friendly Attitude as the independent variable to predict the dependent variable Eco Friendly Behaviour using linear regression. In the second step we have used Eco Friendly Attitude as the independent variable and used it to regress Environmental Awareness. The third step comprises of regressing Eco Friendly Behaviour using Environmental Awareness as the predictor variable. The final step comprises of regressing Eco Friendly Behaviour using both Eco Friendly Attitude and Environmental Awareness to determine the mediating effect of Environmental Awareness.
Content Validity reports showed that out of the 5 respondents, not more than 1 objected to the essentiality of any question out of the 17 questions in the survey. Hence none of the questions was discarded on those grounds. Reported in Table1 are the means, SD, correlations and internal consistency measure (Cronbach’s Î±). From the table we can clearly see that EA and EFB are very strongly correlated with each other. Even both of these are correlated with EFA but the extent of correlation of EFA is comparatively lower with EA and even lower with EFB hinting at a possible mediation of the EFA and EFB relation by EA. But a conclusive decision regarding the mediation can only be taken after we perform regression analysis for the same.
Going forward, the regression analysis is presented in Table 2. In the first step we regress for EFB using EFA as a predictor or independent variable. The results show that the impact of EFA on EFB is significant (since p<<0.01 i.e. even with lower level of significance). Hence we can say that there is an effect of EFA on EFB which might be mediated. Thus Hypothesis 1 is supported
In the second step we regressed for EA using EFA as a predictor or independent variable. The results show that EFA significantly impacted EA (since p<<0.01). Hence the antecedent variable is significantly correlated with the mediator variable. Thus Hypothesis 2 is supported.
In the third step we regressed for EFB using the mediating variable EA as a predictor variable. The results again show a significant relation between the two which shows that the mediating variable here is significantly related to the criterion variable. Thus Hypothesis 3 is supported.
In the final step we regressed for EFB using both EA and EFA as predictor variables to comment on mediation effect. EFA significantly affected EFB and EA as seen in step 1 and 2 but became non-significantly related to EFB in this step (p=0.795>>0.01). The same is emphasized by the fact that the significance of the impact of EA on EFB is still significant (p=0.000). Hence this shows complete mediation of the relation between EFA and EFB by EA. The mediation effect comes to 0.440 for EFA for its relationship with EFB. The Z-score using the Sobel calculator turns out to be 7.63 which is much greater than 1.96. Hence the mediation is significant at 1% level of significance (two-tailed). Hence hypothesis 4 is supported.
Once the mediation analysis is completed we now move to analysis of another important part of our model which is moderation of the relationships between EFA, EA and EFB by gender. Table 3 shows the regression re-performed separately for the male and the female samples. The mediation analysis again is shown to be significant in both the cases taken separately as seen from the fact that the first three relations are significant and in the step 4, the relation between EA and EFB is still significant showing that full mediation exists. The mediation effect turns out to be 0.62 in case of females and 0.322 in case of males. The Z-score comes to 6.38 in case of females and 4.57 in case of males. This shows that the mediation is significant in both the cases.
The standardized Î² coefficient is shown for all the relationships in our model in the Figure 1 for both the male and the female set of respondents. The standardized coefficient clearly shows that for female respondents the impact of EFA on EFB is substantially higher than in the case of male respondents. The same is observed in case of the relationship between EFA and EA as well as between EA and EFB. Hence Hypothesis 5(a), 5(b) and 5(c) are supported.
DISCUSSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
The study conducted above analyzed the impact of Eco Friendly Attitude on Eco Friendly Behaviour and mediation of the relationship by Environmental Awareness in the context of the Indian youth studying in the post graduate schools of the country. Very little study, if any, has been conducted on this topic in the Indian Context so much so that only in 2009 has research started in Asia-Pacific by Kaman Lee (2009) on the same. This report provides a valuable insight into the topic for marketers as well as for future studies conducted in India.
As can been seen from the analysis conducted above Eco Friendly Attitude seems to have a positive impact on Eco Friendly Behaviour which is consistent with the study conducted by Kotchen and Reiling (2000). This is very logical in the sense that people with a favourable attitude towards eco friendly products can be expected to have eco friendly behaviour even in spite of the extra price may be monetary or opportunistic that they have to pay for such behaviour.
To have a better understanding of the topic we introduced Environmental Awareness as another construct and tried to find its role as a mediator. The first conclusion that came out of the same was that an Eco Friendly Attitude would imply a higher Environmental Awareness. This is in direct agreement to the study conducted by Mittal (1989). The logic behind the same is that an attitude would act as a motivation for them to learn more about these products hence increasing their awareness.
The next conclusion that comes directly from the results is that Environmental Awareness leads to Eco Friendly Behaviour. This is again consistent with the study conducted by Chan (2001). This makes sense because people with more awareness about eco friendly products can be expected to have favourable purchasing behaviour towards the same.
The results also establish the mediation of the relation between Eco Friendly Attitude and Eco Friendly Behaviour is being mediated by Environmental Awareness which is consistent with the studies conducted by Alwitt and Pitts (1996). This stresses on the importance of bringing about awareness about Eco Friendly Products among consumers. The conclusion that can be drawn here is that awareness about these products is more important than only an attitude towards the same.
The results also show gender specific implications for each of these relationships. From the analysis for female consumer’s impact of attitude on behaviour seems to be higher which is in direct accordance with the study conducted by various authors like Maineri (1997) etc. mentioned in the literature review. The same is true to the other two relationships between Eco Friendly Attitude & Environmental Awareness and between Environmental Awareness and Eco Friendly Behaviour. This makes sense because prominently household purchasing is done by females and hence there is a higher probability of attitude being converted to purchasing behaviour. Again females have been seen to exhibit more seriousness towards such issues as expressed in the literature review and hence the case.
India is set to see a substantial increase in the market for eco friendly products. The study has great relevance for Indian marketers because this study emphasizes on the fact that awareness plays a key role in behaviour. This is a positive boost to the importance of environment awareness campaigns in bringing about eco friendly behaviour. This justifies the use of such campaigns in the drive for to create a host of environment friendly consumers.
The fact that the impact of such awareness on behaviour is more in case of female consumers hints to the marketers about the possible benefit of targeting that segment of the consumers.
The obvious conclusion from the above research is that the benefit from conversion of awareness and attitude to behaviour would be more in case of female consumers and marketing campaigns should be made to influence this particular market segment.
LIMITATIONS, SCOPE FOR FUTURE RESEARCH AND CONCLUSION
Firstly, the primary data collection was done among a restricted age group (20-30 years) and hence the same cannot be generalized for all the other age groups. Similar studies need to be conducted among other age groups as well.
Secondly, the same is valid for the educational background. As for the purpose of this study we had only approached students from B-Schools or other equivalent post graduate schools. Hence this result cannot be generalized for other sections of the society.
Thirdly, there might be an influence of cultural behaviour on survey results as the same is restricted to Indian cities. Hence for the purpose of generalizing the results, future studies should take into account the cultural influence on different variables.
Fourthly, The media used for the dissemination of the questionnaire in our case is internet because of the scarcity of time. Hence this might have restricted a few of the respondents from our target group. A parallel on-paper questionnaire could have provided a more comprehensive sample from the target group.
But for the restricted category of people from which our sample was taken and which forms a substantial market for eco friendly products the results hold true. Thus for this section Eco Friendly Attitude positively impacts Eco Friendly Behaviour and the same is moderated by Environmental Awareness. The impacts are much higher in female consumers compared to male consumers. Hence female consumers should ideally be the target of marketers to eco friendly products who try to drive in awareness about eco friendly products to people having positive attitude towards the same.
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