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.
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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.
In the Indian context, the Government has taken various steps to build awareness regarding the environment. Some of the measures taken are:
National Environment Awareness Campaign 2009-10 for Climate Change stresses on environmental education and hence has been implementing several schemes and programmes to enhance awareness level among youth in India.
Environment Education in School System – Launched in 1999, the main objective of the project was to increase education directed towards environmental awareness in the formal school curriculum. The incorporation of environment as a course was done across the country.
Environmental concepts in management & business studies -There is a need to make Industry Managers and future corporate leaders more sensitive and responsible towards issues and concepts of Environmental Management and Responsiblity. The Ministry of Environment and Forest has taken an initiative to introduce environmental concepts in Business Management education. Course contents in Business Schools are being updated to ensure this objective.
Marketers are increasingly looking to promote their products by appealing to the eco-friendly side of consumers, in a way, also increasing awareness about the environment amongst the public. Honda launched an India-specific advertisement to show that technology and care for environment go hand-in-hand for them. Similarly, many marketers are launching products that are targeted at environmentally sensitive consumers, such as hybrid cars, power saving home appliances and recyclable goods. Contrary to beliefs, in some cases, these may actually provide cost savings to consumers over time.
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 majorly guided by such environmental campaigns has any effect on this relationship.
Environmental consciousness, environmental responsibility, “going green” and the list goes 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 is the precursor for awareness, 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.
Studies indicate that an increase in environmental awareness positively alters attitudes towards organic products.(Vlosky, 1999). Researchers have also found a positive correlation between environmental knowledge and eco friendly attitudes.(Jaus, 1982). Fishbein and Ajzen (1975), concluded that environmental awareness and sensitivity are influenced by beliefs,attitudes and social pressures.
Sorrentino, Higgins (1996) have hinted towards the knowledge functions and object appraisal that attitude serves. Katz, (1960) and Smith, Bruner & White (1956) have argued that attitude helps in structuring the complex flows of information as people are then more receptive to such information. According to Allport (1935) the observation as in what he sees, thinks and stores depends on some initial preparation which is provided by attitude.
The important point to note here is that the level of awareness and attitude towards environment friendly products in India is pretty less compared to developed nations. Hence the information available is very minimum and very complicated in its very nature. Hence the above argument holds true for a country like India.
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.
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 as the actual consumption of products that are beneficial to 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 research, the intention is to explore the underlying 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. All the scales were taken directly from past research work with a few changes which have been highlighted in italics in Appendix A. The reason for the modifications is the adaptation of the questionnaire to the Indian context.
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 except one question which was “I often buy products that support fair community trades” citing problems with its relevance in the Indian context. 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.
Table 1: Means, SDs, correlations and Cronbach’s Î±.
Eco Friendly Attitude
Eco Friendly behaviour
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.
Table 2: Regression Analysis Results for measuring the mediation effect.
Change in Î²
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.
Table 3: Regression Analysis Results for measuring the mediation effect (Female/Male).
Change in Î²
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.
Figure 1: Diagrammatic representation of the model and the standardized Î² coefficients for
the Male/ Female set of respondents.
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.
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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 di
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