CONSUMER DECISIONS INVOLVING SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Kim A. Nelson
University of Washington, Tacoma
Public concern about the environment has become a mainstream issue that affects consumer behavior in a variety of ways. Some consumers use a company's environmental record to eliminate its products and services from further consideration (e.g., the boycott of Exxon products after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska). These same consumers are also likely to consider a brand's "greenness," its lack of harm to the environment, as a product attribute when evaluating alternatives (e.g., Tide detergent advertisements touting the "enviro-pak" refill that sends less packaging to the landfill). Roper Starch Worldwide has been tracking consumer attitudes and behaviors related to the environment on an annual basis for several years, and their 1993 study reports that 55% of American consumers are classified as True Blue Greens, Greenback Greens, or Sprouts--their terms for different types of environmentally active consumers ( Stisser, 1994). They also report increasing trends in consumer behaviors that directly affect their choices (e.g., reading labels to see if contents are environmentally safe, avoiding products from companies with poor environmental records, being willing to pay more for green products, and considering both the purchase and disposal of products or packaging).
Concern for the environment can be considered as one dimension of an individual's social responsibility. The Exxon boycott can then be seen as a reaction to that company's perceived lack of corporate social responsibility in an attempt to reduce the possibility of future environmental disasters.