Green purchasing is affected by price only in times of economic crisis

Analysing as to whether periods of economic well-being and crises exert different effects on the factors influencing green purchasing

  • Research

First publication date: 29/07/2022

María Jesús Luengo | Photo: Fernando Gómez. UPV/EHU

The departments of Financial Economics II and Economics & Business of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country have conducted a cross-sectional study to find out whether periods of well-being and crises have different effects on internal factors (motivations, attitudes and perceived effectiveness by the consumer) and on external factors (environmental information and marketing) that influence green behaviour, such as green activism and green purchasing.

Concern for the environment and sustainability has been extensively explored. There is evidence that there is still a gap between pro-environmental attitudes and green consumption, despite the fact that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environment and that more and more companies are marketing green products. Therefore, understanding the main factors influencing green purchasing is useful when helping organisations develop strategies for producing and marketing green products.

Consumer behaviour with respect to organic products is a complex phenomenon; it is difficult to define, it is strongly influenced by internal variables of the consumer, and it is diverse and context-dependent. The UPV/EHU departments of Economics & Business and Financial Economics II conducted a longitudinal study to explore how the economic context moderates the relationships between environmental behaviour and various factors, such as motivation, attitude, effectiveness perceived by the consumer, environmental information and marketing. So they surveyed students on the Master's in Business Administration from an Innovation and Internationalization Perspective programme of the UPV/EHU during periods of economic crisis (2008-2012) and during periods of well-being (2014-2019); the survey gathered their ecological consumption habits, ecological knowledge, transport habits, recycling habits, etc.

Economic crises affect green purchasing behaviour

The UPV/EHU lecturer María Jesús Luengo explained that "the results reveal a clear influence of the economic context, which acts as a moderator in the link between the various factors and environmental behaviour". The lecturer stressed that "knowledge pertaining to ecological issues, organic consumption, organic products, is, in principle, less than we thought, and, what is more, neither does it exert an impact when it comes to deciding whether to make an organic purchase".

Green purchasing is influenced by motivations, attitudes, effectiveness perceived by the consumer and green activism, and this influence is more pronounced in times of economic crisis. Of all these, the one that most influences green activism and green purchasing in times of crisis is motivation, followed by effectiveness perceived by the consumer. "In other words, when the consumer makes that green purchase, it really seems to him/her that he/she is doing something that is effective, something that has some kind of impact, rather than knowing whether it is good or bad," explained the PhD holder in the Department of Economics & Business. However, in times of well-being, the effects of these two main factors are similar.

"We were surprised that being a green or sustainable activist, i.e. one who separates waste or uses public transport, for example, does not play a major role in deciding whether or not to make a green purchase. It's more a matter of feeling that we are really doing something good for the benefit of ourselves, and the world," explained Luengo.

Within the marketing variables, product and price have a greater influence on green activism than product promotion and outlet in times of economic crisis, while price has no effect in times of well-being. "I think that of all the variables, price is the one that varies the most when it comes to making that decision. The price of organic products has an impact when it comes to making an organic purchase in times of crisis. In times of economic boom, however, price is of little importance, whereas distribution is more important (i.e. how convenient it is to get hold of these products), for example," she said.

The influence of environmental information is greater in times of crisis than in times of well-being. So, during economic crises the dissemination of environmental information among consumers plays an important role in environmental attitudes, which in turn positively influence green purchasing. However, the high prices of organic products negatively affect organic purchasing in times of crisis, which could explain the lower levels of organic purchasing found.

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