JOURNAL OF CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGY, 5(1), 49-64 Copyright O 19%, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Predicting Purchase Intentions for an Environmentally Sensitive Product Linda F. Alwitt and Robert E. Pitts Department of Marketing DePaul University
Expressions of positive attitudes toward the environment are only weakly related to the consumption of alternatives to products that are environmentally unfriendly. Yet, socially concerned marketers and public policy makers still appeal to general environmental concern (GEC) when trying to demarket environmentally sensitive products or market more friendly alternatives. In this article, we propose that GEC has an indirect effect on purchase intentions for environmentally related products and the relation is mediated by product-specific attitudes about consequences of using the environmentally related product as well as the product's environmental attributes. We tested the model among 210 users of disposable diapers, a product that is not environmentally friendly. The results support the proposition that GEC has only an indirect effect on purchase intentions for disposable diapers. Implications for marketers and public policy makers are discussed.
Environmental concern has become a socially accepted norm for a large segment of American society (Crimmins, 1991; Freeman, 1989; Schwepker & Cornwell, 1991). Ninety percent of American consumers say they are concerned about the environmental consequences of their purchases, and 75% say they include environmental considerations in their shopping decisions (Kleiner, 1991) or call themselves "environmentalists" (Gutfeld, 1991). However, although consumer surveys show a general "greening" of attitudes, few "green" products have proved to be overwhelming sales successes (Landler, 1991; Reitman, 1992). In other words, the majority of consumers report that they are environmentally concerned, but they do not necessarily consume environmentally friendly products in place of products that are not environmentally friendly. Marketers should not be surprised that, although consumers say they are concerned with the environment, they do not buy green products in overwhelming preference. The gap between voiced attitudes and behaviors is not unexpected. Requests for reprints should be sent to Robert E. Pitts, Department of Marketing, DePaul University, I East Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, IL 606062287, E-mail: [email protected]
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Consumers are under social pressure, particularly when responding to surveys, to voice concern for the environment. But, because their motivations for using environmentally sensitive products or services often conflict with their environmental concerns, they do not behave in accordance with their stated concern. The consumer behavior and marketing literature has consistently reported that general environmental concern (GEC) or ecological concern is associated but not highly correlated with consumption behavior (Ester & van der Meer, 1982; Gill, Crosby, & Taylor, 1986; Schlossberg, 1991; Shrum, Lowrey, & McCarty, 1994; Stern & Oskamp, 1987). Prior research into the impact of general environmental concern on consumption and other environmentally related behaviors provides limited insight about (a) whether marketers should act consistently with expressed general environmental concern, or (b) how businesses can use general environmental concern to market environmentally safer products or services. The weak relation between environmental concern and environmentally friendly behaviors raises practical questions for marketers and public policy makers. Socially concerned marketers advocate persuasive interventions to increase consumption of environmentally friendly products and services and also encourage other proenvironmental responses (Ellen, Wiener, & Cobb-Walgren, 1991; Gill et al., 1986; Scott, 1978; Vining & Ebero, 1990; Wiener & Doescher, 1991). In this context, the marketing community needs to understand how general environmental concern may be related to use of products and services that affect the environment either positively or negatively. A marketer may attempt to use GEC to influence the consumption decision process and thereby increase the probability of purchase of a product or service that has an environmentally positive consequence. Conversely, marketers of environmentally sensitive products may try to minimize the effect of environmental concern on the consumer's purchase decision. Social marketers and public policy makers seek to reduce environmentally negative behavior and may encourage less environmentally damaging alternatives. If rising environmental concern does not produce the expected change in consumption behavior, regulation rather than social marketing may be necessary. We propose that the influence of general environmental concern does influence consumer decisions and choices, but it acts indirectly through mediating constructs that are closely linked to the product being purchased. Understanding this mediation can help marketers or public policy makers determine how to develop marketing communications about the environmentally related product/service. In this article, we examine two product class constructs that may mediate the relation between general environmental concern and product-specific purchase intentions: environmentally relevant attitudes toward consequences of using the product and the importance of the environmentally related atrributes of that product as choice criteria. A model incorporating these constructs was developed and tested for an environmentally sensitive product, disposable diapers.
A COGNITIVE MODEL LINKING GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN AND PURCHASE INTENTION OF ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE PRODUCTS We examined a model of the indirect influences of GEC on purchase intentions which can be applied to a specific environmentally related product. The model proposes that the effect of GEC on purchase intentions is mediated by productspecific attitudes and perceptions. The model includes constructs that reflect three levels of the link between consumer motivations and product characteristics: (a) the consumer's concern for the environment-GEC; (b) a mediating level, including both attitudes toward the environmentally linked consequences of using products and the environmental attributes of that product relative to other choice criteria; and (c) purchase intentions (PI) for the environmentally related product. The model is not a general model of consumption of environmentally sensitive products but is a means through which the influence of consumers' general attitudes toward the environment may be better examined. Other factors such as the availability of products or recycling, social pressure, and perception of efficacy also influence the purchase decision for environmentally related products and services (e.g., Ellen et a]., 1991).
General Environmental Concern General environmental concern is a construct frequently used as a measure of the importance of the environment and its protection, and it is cited as an indicator of the greening of consumption. It is on the growing strength of this general measure that the reported rise of the so-called green consumer has been based. It has resulted in marketing communications, packaging, labeling, and product development that emphasize this desired benefit. In fact, the use of the term green seems to have replaced environmentally concerned in the media and in research (Iyer & Banerjee, 1993; Iyer, Banerjee, & Gulas, 1994; Shrum, McCarty, & Lowrey, 1995). We use the GEC concept as an attitudinal construct because it is clearer than the term green which, as has been noted, is imprecise and may intermix attitudinal and behavioral constructs (Rigney, 1992; Strum et al., 1994). A consistent result of research on environmentally relevant behavior is that GEC is associated but not highly correlated with consumptive behavior. This research, however, has focused on many aspects of environmental concern. These include the characteristics of socially conscious consumers (Anderson & Cunningham, 1972; Antil, 1984; Dunlap, van Liere, & Dillman, 1979; Kinnear, Taylor, & Ahmed, 1974; Mayer, 1976; Murphy, Kangun, & Locander, 1978; Shrum et al., 1995; Webster, 1975), the impact of ecological concerns on perceptions (Kinnear & Taylor, 1973), behavioral-change strategies for socially conscious behavior (Scott, 1978), and the impact of ecological concerns on
marketing strategy (Kassarjian, 1971). See Schwepker and Cornwell (1991), Granzin and Olsen (1991), or Shrum et al. (1994) for excellent reviews. We believe that the lack of empirical evidence of a link between GEC and environmentally related consumption is perhaps due to the omission of the mediating effects of more product-specific variables. This is consistent with the proposal that environmental concern has an indirect rather than a direct influence on environmentally related consumption behaviors (Gill et al., 1986; van Liere & Dunlap, 1980). We offer two reasons for proposing that GEC has an indirect rather than a direct influence on purchase decisions. First, behaviors occur in a specific context, and to predict behavior, attitudes must also be specified within the same context. That is, the relation between attitude and behavior is stronger when both of these constructs are measured at the same level of abstraction (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1977; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; Fishbein & Middlestadt, 1995).This measurement issue, known as the principle of compatibility, is based on an assumption about how people think: An attitude must be cognitively accessible in order to maximally predict behavior (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 165). People must include a specific context for the attitude to strongly influence related behavior. Because GEC is more abstract and context-free than specific environmentally oriented consumption behaviors, it is likely to be a poor predictor of environmentally relevant behaviors. Second, Bagozzi (1992) proposed that there are three types of intentions: present oriented, future oriented, and goal oriented. Goal-oriented intentions address "outcomes toward which one strives" (p. 194). We suggest that acting consistently with one's GEC is a goal but not necessarily an intention to act. In other words, even though GEC is a goal-oriented intention, the influence of conflicting factors impedes a direct influence of GEC on behavioral intentions. Hence, attitudes and beliefs about the specific behaviors may mediate the effect of GEC on specific environmentally related behaviors.'
Mediating Role of Product Class-Specific Constructs There is some evidence that environmental concern is mediated by an individual's representation of a product category. Kinnear and Taylor (1973) determined that buyers with "different levels of ecological concern have systematically different cognitive maps for laundry products" (p. 196). Gill et al. (1986) showed that ecological concern indirectly influences voting behavior on bottle bills. In a study of organizational buying, Drumwright (1994) reported that although environmen'Bagozzi and Warshaw's (1990) conceptualization of the theory of trying is a modification of the Fishbein theory of reasoned action. The theory, which provides a better explanation of goal pursuit, is another approach to reconciling attitudes with intentions.
tally friendly organizational buying often stemmed from the buyer's individual moral commitment, organizational context also influenced product choice. This evidence suggests that the relation between GEC and consumer behavior is mediated by specific attitudinal, normative, and behavioral intention variables (Gill et al., 1986; Heslop, Moran, & Cousineau, 1981; Ritchie, McDougall, & Claxton, 1981; Van Liere & Dunlap, 1980; Verhallen & van Raaij, 1981;Webster, 1975). Nevertheless, we also tested the possibility that GEC has a direct effect on behavior. Using the model, we examined two product class-specific variables as potential mediators of the influences of GEC on environmentally sensitive consumptive behavior: (a) environmentally relevant attitudes (EATT) toward the consumption of an environmentally friendly (unfriendly) product and (b) importance of the product's environmentally related characteristics (EATIMP) as choice criteria. These product class-specific attitudes and environmentally related product attributes are posited to directly influence PIS for environmentally related products. Although the two constructs are likely to be related, it is possible to discriminate between attitudes about the consumption of the environmentally sensitive product and environmental attributes used as the choice criteria. Attitudes about the consequences of using a product ( E A R ) are more closely related to a consumer's needs and values, and they include an awareness of actions that might be taken with regard to the product. Attributes (EATIMP) are descriptive and require cognitive effort to be related to consumer needs in importance assessments. Further, attitudes and attributes have different implications for marketer actions that seek to influence environmental behavior. If attributes mediate the effect of GEC on product purchase, the implication for marketers is to communicate the presence of the environmentally friendly attributes to consumers. If an attitude about the consequences of using a product is the mediating construct, the implication for marketers is to use persuasive tactics to support this attitude if it is positive or change it if it is negative. Product class-specific attitudes about the consequences of using the environmentally sensitive product (EATI') reflect the interaction of the product with the environment. Consistent with the theory of reasoned action, this construct focuses on the specific evaluation attitudes toward the act of consumption rather than the attitude object itself (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). These specific attitudes are posited to be directly influenced by GEC and, in turn, they directly influence PI for an environmentally sensitive product. Such attitudes may be related to positive or negative consequences of using the environmentally friendly product. They may be based on issues such as the degree of convenience of environmentally friendly options, willingness to buy from lesser known, green-oriented firms, the possible additional costs associated with green products, knowledge of specific environmental consequences of an environmentally sensitive product, or product availability.
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Environmentally related product attributes (EATIMP) measure consumer perceptions of product characteristics that may increase or mitigate the product's environmental impact. These attributes, a part of the larger set of product attributes considered in choice, are product category-specific criteria used to differentiate among competing brand offerings. They include beliefs regarding recyclability or the perception that the manufacturer is environmentally conscious and differentiate green product consumption with positive environmental consequences from environmentally harmful consumption. How GEC may activate these attributes and their influence on choice is of particular relevance to marketers who seek to develop and sell more environmentally friendly products. They must evaluate the relative importance of such attributes to the consumer. Purchase intention in our model is a marketing outcome variable. Due to the conflict between GEC and other product characteristics and benefits, consumers may consider their reported purchase intention as a goal rather than as an actual intention to act. This is supported by other research (Schlossberg, 1991; Shrum et al., 1994; Stem & Oskarnp, 1987) that documents the lack of correlation between GEC and environmental behaviors. Whereas a large number of factors affect behavior for any given consumption intention, focusing specifically on these variables with PI as the outcome variable allows us to examine the mediating process at a reasonable level of model complexity.
APPLICATION OF THE MODEL The purpose of our research is to assess the extent to which GEC effects on PI are mediated by attitudes toward consumption and the importance of environmental attributes. We used path analysis to detect linkages among the four constructs in the context of a specific environmentally relevant product. Path analysis permitted us to study how the constructs are linked to each other and to purchase intentions for the environmentally sensitive product. These relations may offer insight to marketers and public policy makers about how to demarket an environmentally harmful product and market environmentally positive alternatives.
The Product We examined the model for an environmentally sensitive product, disposable diapers. Although disposable diapers account for only about 1.5% of municipal solid waste, they are a well-publicized component (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1989). In response, the major manufacturers of disposable diapers have widely publicized their efforts to be environmentally responsible (Swasy, 1991). Disposable diapers were used by an estimated 12% of U.S. households in a 6-month period (Simmons Marketing Research Bureau, 1989) and were chosen over alternative products, such as cloth diapers owned by the
family, diaper services, and biodegradable diapers. Their popularity stems from their convenience for caregivers of infants and toddlers.
Model Relations for Disposable Diapers The path model examined in our study is shown in Figure 1. Note that we have included nonenvironmentally linked attributes of diapers, additional factors that influence choice, as well as environmentally related attributes or benefits. By including these additional attributes, the marketer can assess the relative importance of environmental and nonenvironmental attributes as choice criteria. The several possible linkages between PIS and its precursors derived from the model are as follows: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
GEC to product attitude for disposable diapers (Gaml). GEC to environmental attributes of disposable diapers (Gam2). Direct path from GEC (Gam3). Direct path from EATT to disposable diapers (Betal). Direct path from EATIMPS of disposable diapers (Beta2). Direct paths from the three exogenous nonenvironmental attributes of disposal diapers to PIS (trust the brand = Gam4, price = Gam5, and absorbency = Gam6). 7. EATT to EATIMPs of disposable diapers (indicated as correlated variables: Rho).
e2 -+ G2
FIGURE 1 Path model. GEC = general environmental concern, EATT = environrnenl;~lly relevant product attitude; EATIMP = environmental attribute importance: PI = purchase intentions.
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8. GEC to EATTs to EATIMPs of disposable diapers (Gaml-Rhe-Beta.2). 9. GEC to EATLMPs to E A R to disposable diapers (Gam2-Rho-Betal). We posit a positive relation between GEC and E A R relevant to disposable diapers and between GEC and EATIMP of disposable diapers. Without the mediation of the product-specific constructs, a negative direct relation was expected between GEC and PI for the environmentally sensitive product such that higher levels of GEC would be related to lower PI for disposable diapers. Also, because disposable diapers have negative consequences for the environment, people who have strong concern about the environment (high GEC) or who feel strongly about environmental consequences of using disposable diapers (high EATT) are expected to have lower intentions to purchase disposable diapers.
Sample Data was collected through a survey mailed to 1,500 women between 18 and 40 years old who belong to Market Facts Consumer Mail Panel households. Because environmental issues and solutions often differ regionally, female panel members were sampled from each of three states--California, Illinois, and Pennsylvaniathat have experienced significant ecological and policy issues related to solid waste disposal. Because there were no differences among states for the variables used in the model, the data were pooled for the three states. The survey response rate was 74%, with 1,110 usable surveys returned. We focused on 19% of the total respondents (210 women) who reported having children under age 3. As is typical of consumer panels (Churchill, 1991), the sample of respondents was more highly educated and more likely to be employed than the national population of women in this age category.
Measures of Variables General environmental concern is measured by agreement ratings using three items on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (agree) to 5 (disagree). Schwepker and Cornwell's (1991) review of research on environmental consciousness highlights the wide range of items used to measure this construct. The three items (Table 1 ) were derived from those used by Maloney and Ward (1973) and Maloney, Ward, and Braucht (1975). They are (a) the need to reduce trash from packaging, (b) the need to reduce waste material thrown away, and (c) concern for the environment in the future. The internal consistency for this GEC scale is rather low (Cronbach's alpha = .525), perhaps reflecting the differing aspects of environmental concern included in a generalized construct. Our latent variable modeling approach allowed us to examine the individual relations between the items and the unobserved GEC construct. This is discussed in the Results section.
Attitude about the environmentally sensitive product--disposable diaperswas measured by six items that specifically identify disposable diapers (see Table 1). The items were developed from a review of the issues raised in the media concerning the environmental consequences of disposable diaper use, means to reduce consumption, and ways to reduce the environmental harm of disposable diapers. These responses were also rated using 5-point scales ranging from 1 (agree) to 5 (disagree), and they have a moderately high internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = .706). Importance of the product's (disposable diapers) EATIMP was derived from respondents' evaluations of the importance of five disposable diaper product attributes. Respondents indicated which of the five items were most important in their decision to purchase disposable diapers. The attributes were binary coded as 1 when the respondent indicated they were "most important," and 0 otherwise. The five attributes were separated into three nonenvironmental product attributes-absorbency, I trust the brand, and the price is low-and an environmentally linked product attribute construct with two attributes-the manufacturer cares about the environment (Cl) and the company uses biodegradable plastic (C2). C1 and C2 were correlated, r = .624. To measure purchase intentions for disposable diapers, respondents were asked to allocate their intended use of 100 diapers among four available types: cloth diapers from a service, disposable diapers, cloth diapers they own, and biodegradable disposable diapers. Anti1 (1984) contended that accurate representation of socially responsible behavior must allow for many degrees of behavior varying from that which shows little concern beyond immediate needs to behavior that clearly exhibits concern for the environment and society in general. The four options provide a set of product (diaper) alternatives with varying degrees of TABLE 1 Measures of Variables General Environmental Concern (Cronbach's alpha = .525) GI. We produce too much trash from packaging in this country. G2. We have to do something immediately to reduce the amount of waste material we throw away. G3. In the future, my children will have to live in an extremely polluted environment. Environmentally Relevant Attitudes Toward Product Attributes (Cronbach's alpha = .7%) A l . I would be willing to store disposable diapers separately so they could be picked up and recycled for other use. A2. I would buy disposable diapers from a less known company if they were biodegradable. A3. If I had a choice, I would buy disposable diapers that use biodegradable plastic. A4. I am willing to cut back on purchasing disposable diapers that add to land fill problems. A5. I am willing to pay more for environmentally sound disposable diapers. A6. When I use an environmentally harmful product like disposable diapers, I should pay an extra "environmental tax" on it. Environmental Attributes (r = .642) C I . The manufacturer cares about the environment C2. The company uses biodegradable plastic
environmental impact, and the constant sum approach uses the number of disposable diapers out of 100 as the measure of environmentally sensitive (negative) behavior.
RESULTS The model and hypothesis were examined using the lineqs option of PROC CALIS (SAS Institute, Inc., 1990). We examined a measurement model for GEC, EATT, EATIMP, and the three nonenvironmental attributes of disposable diapers. The measurement model which includes all variables indicates that the constructs are adequately measured: adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI) = .7548; root mean square residual (RMR) = .1492; Bentler and Bonnet's (1980) Normed Fit Index (NFI) = .6070; x2(44,N = 210) = 212.37, p = .0001. Measurement models were also examined separately for each of the latent constructs of GEC, EATT, and the nonenvironmental attributes of disposable diapers. The indicators are significantly related to the respective latent constructs of GEC, EA'IT, and product-specific, nonenvironmental attributes. The methodology does not allow a measurement model for the two-indicant construct of environmental attributes of disposable diapers (EATIMP). As previously noted, the variables showed moderate but acceptable levels of internal consistency, as measured by Cronbach's alpha. Thus, the latent variables appear to be adequately measured and can be further analyzed. The full structural path model shown in Figure 1 was tested first. Model fit parameters and estimated standardized parameter values are presented in Table 2. The full model provides a moderate fit to the data (Table 2, column 1). The structural model parameters (Table 2) indicate that GEC is related to both attitude to the consequences of using disposable diapers (EA'IT) and to the importance of their environmental attributes (EATIMP). EATT is negatively related to PI, but EATIMP is unrelated to PI for that type of diaper. The direct path from GEC to PI (Gam3) is not significant, indicating that GEC influences PI indirectly through the mediating factor of attitude toward consequences of using disposable diapers (EATT) and possibly indirectly through perceptions of environmental attributes of disposable diapers (EATIMP). The paths from the three nonenvironrnental attributes of disposablediapers to PI (Gam4-Gam6) are not statistically significant (p < .05). Several alternative models of the effects of GEC on the relative PIS for disposable diapers were also examined and are compared in Table 2. Because the initial results indicate that the nonenvironmental product attributes are not significantly related to PIS for disposable diapers, they were excluded. Although this model is statistically significant, x2(48,N = 210) = 138.9, p < .0001, the other parameters indicate it fits the data better than the alternative models. Examination of the model coefficients indicates that the significant paths are the same as those in Model 1. GEC is related ( p < .05) to the consequences of using
TABLE 2 Parameters and Fit Statistics for Models --
Model Excluding Nonenvironmental Product Attributes
Model Excluding Direct GEC Effect
Direct GEC Eflect and Attitude Toward Product
Gam l GEC-EATT Gam2 GEC-EATIMP Gam3 GEC-PI Betal EAT--PI Beta2 EATIMP-PI Gam4 AbsorbPI Gam5 Brand-PI Gam6 Price-PI Rho EAT--EATIMP AGFI RM R Chi-Square dj' Chi-Squareldj' Bentler and Bonnet's Normed Fit Index -
Note. t statistics are shown in parentheses. GEC = general environmental concern; EAT- = environmentally relevant product attitudes; EATIMP = environmental attribute importance; PI = purchase intentions; Absorb = absorbency; Brand = I trust the brand; Price = the price is low; AGFI = adjusted goodness of fit index; RMR = root mean square residual; df'= degrees of freedom. *p < .05.
disposable diapers (EAlT) and also ( p < .05) to the importance of environmental attributes when purchasing this product (EATIMP). As in Model I , only EATTT is significantly ( p < .05) related to PI, and, as expected, the parameter is negative. EATIMP appears to influence PI through the attitude construct (Rho = .466). Because the direct effect of GEC on PIS is not significant in Models 1 or 2, we examined a model that excluded the direct path from GEC. This model allowed us to consider the possibility that all the effects of GEC are fully mediated by the product-specific attitude and attribute measures. Model 3 does not fit as well as Model 2 (Table 2, column 3) but does fit about as well as Model 1, x2(82,N = 210) = 281.84, p = .0001, AGFI = .7673; RMR = 3.981; Bentler and
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Bonnet's (1980) NFI = .6285. As in Models 1 and 2, there are significant paths, Gaml and Gam2, from GEC to EA?T and EATIMP, respectively. These effects are captured through the relations between EATT and PI (Betal) and the path from EATIMP to PI (Beta2). Model 4 was examined in order to explore the importance of the contribution of environmental attributes of disposable diapers. It includes both a direct effect of GEC on PI for disposable diapers and an indirect effect of GEC on PI for disposable diapers through attitude toward the consequences of using the product. The model fits the data almost as well as Model 2 (see Table 2, column 4), except that the root mean square residual is larger (4.797). As in the other models, in Model 4 the direct effect of GEC on PI (Gam3) is not significant and is mediated (p < .05) by the EATT construct. This model also suggests that the environmental attributes of disposable diapers play a minor role in influencing PIS for the product.
DISCUSSION Empirical analysis of this model using disposable diaper purchase intentions data provides support for the proposition that general environmental concern has only an indirect effect on purchase intentions for this environmentally relevant product and that this effect is mediated by attitudes about this specific environmentally relevant product. These results reinforce the idea that managers of environmentally sensitive products and services should heed the voice of the consumer with regard to the environment. Environmental attitudes do indeed influence consumers' intentions to purchase environmentally sensitive products, although the influence may be indirect. For all the models examined, the path coefficients for GEC to EAIT (Gaml) and to EATIMP (Gam2), as well as the path coefficients for EAIT to PI (Betal), are strong and stable in size and valence. The results suggest that environmental concern is related to consequences of using the product as summarized in the attitude to the product's environmental consequences. Thus, the stronger the attitude toward the environmental consequences of disposable diaper consumption, the smaller the proportion of disposable diapers the respondent intends to use among the diaper purchase/use options offered. The role of the environmental attributes in determining PI for disposable diapers (Beta2) is less clear. Although Models 1 and 2 suggest that environmental attributes may influence PI only indirectly through their relation to attitudes about the consequences of using disposable diapers, Model 3 suggests a direct effect, and Model 4 suggests that they may have essentially no influence on PIS. Consumers vary in the reasons for their acts of consumption (Vallacher & Wegner, 1987). For example, a given consumer may buy disposable diapers from a firm because the firm claims its diapers are biodegradable (an attribute). In
this case, there may be a link between general environmental concern, the product attribute, and purchase intentions. The firm that wants to retain this customer must continue to communicate that its product is biodegradable and, thus, environmentally friendly. Another consumer may buy disposable diapers because he or she does not believe consumer actions will be effective in reducing solid waste disposal problems (see Ellen et al., 1991). In this case, there may be a weak link between the attitude toward disposable diapers and PI (or between the level of GEC, the EAlT to the consequences of using disposable diapers, and PI). The implication for a marketer of environmentally friendly diapers or diaper services, or a public policy maker who wishes to lower disposable diaper usage, is to change the strength of the link between the consumer's attitude to disposable diapers and his or her PI. Several limitations must be kept in mind when evaluating the findings of this study. First, the results pertain to a specific product class and may not be representative of other products with environmental consequences. For instance, unlike some other environmentally sensitive behaviors, the use of disposable diapers may have low social visibility. Researchers examining other environmentally sensitive products may wish to include normative or social influence variables in order to better predict PI. Further, for other such products, environmentally relevant attributes may have more of a role in the model. Second, purchase intentions for disposable diapers are negative behaviors rather than the positive behaviors normally associated with product marketing activities. Because of its negative social implications the intended purchase of disposable diapers relative to alternative diaper products and services may have been understated. Further, prior to indicating their purchase intentions, respondents had answered questions about diapers and the environment so that response biases may have decreased claimed usage of disposable diapers. For example, although the fit of Model 2 may suggest that nonenvironmental attributes of disposable diapers do not influence PIS for disposable diapers, this may be because respondents did not evaluate product attribute importance until after they had responded to the questions about the environment. This may have biased them toward higher relative importance ratings for the environmental attributes. Third, the model does not consider effects of other influences on purchase intentions for environmentally sensitive products. Influences such as social pressure, perceptions of the efficacy of one's environmentally positive actions, and awareness of changes in public attitudes may moderate GEC influences on PIS.
CONCLUSION Marketers of environmentally sensitive products are faced with two types of dilemmas. First, to what degree should they rely on the proenvironmental stance of the vast majority of consumers in deciding to market environmentally friendly products and services? Second, what are the best marketing cornrnunication
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strategies for marketing environmentally friendly products and services? Our results confirm that general environmental concern must be considered when making marketing decisions for environmentally sensitive products. The marketer should be aware, however, that the impact of general environmental concern is mediated by attitudinal variables relevant to the specific product class. Thus, general environmental concern may not generally or directly index purchase intentions for environmentally sensitive products. Rather, the market must examine how environmental concern may activate attitudes about the product and perception of its environmental characteristics. The model suggests that social marketers should communicate with consumers to persuade them to use alternatives to environmentally unfriendly products. Among the approaches they might use are (a) increase negative attitudes about the consequences of using the product, (b) strengthen the link between general environmental concern and negative attitudes about using the product, (c) strengthen the link between attitudes about the consequences of using the product and purchase intentions for it, and (d) raise levels of general environmental concern. The first and second options offer clear directions. Public policy makers can enhance public awareness of pollution problems and potential solutions associated with specific environmentally related products. They can also influence monetary incentives by taxing the more polluting versions of products in the category (costs likely to be passed on to the consumer), encourage an increase in the ratio of consumption of nonpolluting to polluting options in the category, or stimulate recycling. In contrast, the third option is difficult to implement and yet is likely to be most effective in persuading consumers to seek alternatives to environmentally unfriendly products or actions. Public policy makers can provide specific information to consumers about the environmental damage created by a product, such as disposable diapers, publicize the available alternatives, and enhance the perception that consumers are personally empowered to influence the status of the environment. In the contemporary U.S. environment, the fourth option is less attractive given the high levels of existing environmental concern. The modeling results indicate that relying on simply communicating the environmental attributes of the product may not be an effective communication strategy for reducing (enhancing) consumption of an environmentally sensitive product. Rather, marketers need to be cognizant of the direct and indirect paths that are available to influence specific purchase intentions. More research is needed to inform marketing and regulatory decision makers in the area.
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Accepted by Dipankar Chakravarti.