The Malaysian Consumer and the Environment: Purchase Behavior

Article excerpt

Introduction

The issue of eco-consciousness among customers is said to be a major concern for marketers. Although many environmentally friendly products with green attributes have been introduced in the markets, consumers have not changed their taste and old habits completely.

Grunert (1993) observes only few customers insist on the environmentally concerns and show it in the shape of actual purchase behavior. Customers who worry about the environment such as the green consumers will try to indicate their concern through different behaviors. For instance, they check on the products that they are purchasing to ensure they practice ethical consumption or they buy only green products that limit the consequences of their consumption with intent to improve their surroundings. Ginsberg & Bloom (2004) found that consumer's attitude towards environmental protection impacts on their behaviors, whereby the attitude is translated into actual behavior through the purchase of green products. These consumers are called "Green" consumers (Ginsberg & Bloom, 2004). Consumers' response to these products however is not consistent (Yam and Chan, 1998).

Today, even ordinary people are well informed regarding the threats that endanger their environment. Environmentally related terms such as air or water pollution, sound pollution, and the unexpected climate change, the ozone layer's problem and its undesirable effect on environment are quite well known to individuals. Many people believe that these problems are the side effects of marketplace factors such as high technologies and growing consumptions that are related to marketing activities intending to satisfy consumer's needs and wants. Consumers around the world have become more environmentally aware recently, leading to a green revolution and demands to prevent further damage to the environment. This study, conducted in Penang, a state in Malaysia, explores whether consumer attitudes on environmental protection have an impact on their purchase behavior. The study also investigates whether consumer knowledge of environmental issues results in environmentally-friendly behavior.

Literature Review

Consumer Purchase behavior

Green purchase or green buying is defined as the act of purchasing of products that are environmentally beneficial from consumer's perception (Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, & Oskamp, 1997). Similarly, Chan (2001) defines green purchase as a specific kind of eco-friendly behavior that consumers perform to express their concern to environment. Consumers practice green purchase to minimize negative environmental impacts by protecting natural resources, reducing energy use and waste and improving health and safety.

Many studies on consumer purchase behavior focus on the theoretical relationships of attitude, intention, and behavior that are encompassed in the Theory of Reasoned Action or TRA (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980; Nik Abdul Rashid, 2007), a useful model even for studies carried out in environmental contexts. Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera (1987), for instance find a connection between intention and behavior. According to Follows and Jobber (2000), if consumers believe that the consequences of their consumption will have a significant effect on the environment, they may purchase environmentally-friendly products.

Suchard and Polonski (1991) suggest that consumers show their concern about the environment through behaviors such as ethical consumption, leading to buying only green products and checking product packaging materials. However, even consumers who are highly concerned with ecological issues do not act consistently (Yam and Chan, 1998). A high degree of environmental awareness and concern about the environment do not inevitably lead consumers to display environmental behaviors. The higher price of green products and the lack of green product substitutes are the main reasons for adverse consumer purchase behavior. …