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Consumer Perceptions of the Social Vs. Environmental Dimensions of Sustainability

Jesse R. Catlin (), Michael Gerhard Luchs () and Marcus Phipps ()
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Jesse R. Catlin: California State University, Sacramento
Michael Gerhard Luchs: College of William & Mary
Marcus Phipps: University of Melbourne

Journal of Consumer Policy, 2017, vol. 40, issue 3, 245-277

Abstract: Abstract Prior research on sustainable consumption has addressed a variety of issues yet is characterized by mixed results. Researchers have often treated sustainability as a uni-dimensional construct, overlooking important differences and thwarting a better understanding of consumer response. We demonstrate that consumers perceive the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability as psychologically distinct in theoretically and practically important ways. Specifically, consumers associate the social dimension of sustainability more with affective, short-term, and local considerations and the environmental dimension more with cognitive, long-term, and global considerations. We identify and explore these distinctions in a qualitative pilot study, which subsequently motivated development of three hypotheses. We provide evidence supporting these hypotheses in a series of five studies. Our findings enable a reinterpretation of prior equivocal research, serve as a foundation for future research, and provide guidance for how policy-makers can tailor policy and related communication efforts depending on whether the focal issue is related to social versus environmental concerns.

Keywords: Social; Environmental; Sustainability; Policy communication; Choice; Mixed methods (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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