Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Benefits of Becoming a Green Company: A Corporate Marketing Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Benefits of Becoming a Green Company: A Corporate Marketing Approach

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the 1970s, consumers have become increasingly aware of the effect companies and organizations have on the natural environment (McCullough & Cunningham, 2010; Shrivastava, 1995). It is common for consumers to hear and read about the environmental impacts and carbon footprints organizations make while conducting day-to-day business operations (Mazar & Zhong, 2010). As such, the green consumer began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, evolved during the environmental movement, and now has a heightened environmental consciousness that guides their buying behavior (Peattie, 2001; Straughan & Roberts, 1999). To attract these consumers, an array of environmentally, or "eco," sustainable products are now provided to attract this consumer market, as well as others that might not necessarily identify themselves as green consumers. In addition to offering environmental sustainable products, companies also try to limit the adverse effect their organization has on the environment as a way to attract consumers (Krause, 1993; Straughan & Roberts). In order to appeal to this target market, it is important for organizations to understand how their environmental initiatives, or lack thereof, influence purchasing decisions and consumer perceptions.

As environmental disasters, like the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill, become more apparent, these events can affect consumer's perceptions of a company and their products. That is, "companies that do not add environmental thinking to their strategy ... risk missing upside opportunities in markets that are increasingly shaped by environmental factors" (Esty & Winston, 2006, p. 10). To this end, sport firms committed to protecting the environment may be able to achieve economic success in an increasingly competitive marketplace (McCullough & Cunningham, 2010), by becoming aware of how their organization's environmental image is perceived by others (Behrend, Baker, & Thompson, 2010). Incorporating environmental aspects to an organization's marketing strategy has been conceptualized to explain why more companies develop and implement green business models that act in accordance with popular environmental trends in society (Trail, 2015; 2016). However, in order to benefit from these actions, consumers must believe a sport entity is a credible advocate for environmental causes. To do so requires that the characteristics of the green marketing campaign, as well as the characteristics of the organization align with the values and concerns of environmentally conscious consumers (Inoue & Kent, 2012).

Unfortunately, environmental sustainability programs have faced challenges in creating an environmentally credible image among consumers, particularly in the sport industry (Show, 2009). Much to this end, almost half of sport executives surveyed indicated that environmental initiatives are mostly a "marketing gimmick" within the sport industry (Show). The limited success of these programs and the perceptions of executives within the industry could be attributed to the paucity of scholarly articles that focus on consumer purchase intentions and perceptions regarding environmentally sustainable business practices and products (Pickett-Baker & Ozaki, 2008), in particular surrounding the sport industry (Chard, Mallen, & Bradish, 2013).

Building on the recommendations made by Chard and colleagues (2013) to develop a research response to the lack of marketing for environmental sustainability research, we examine the influence of corporate marketing (Balmer, 1997, 2001, 2009) concerning environmental communications on consumers' perceptions of an organization and their subsequent buying intentions. Specifically, we draw from signaling theory (Rynes, 1991; Spence, 1974) and social dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) to examine how signals regarding environmental initiatives affect perceptions of an organization and buying behavior. …

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