The Theory of Planned Behavior, based on the value – attitude – behavior hierarchy, has been proven as a reliable instrument for measuring green purchasing behavior. This study examines the application of a sub-section of Theory of Planned Behavior, namely the measurement of Attitudes towards Green Purchases of management students in Jabalpur City. Ecological affect has a greater impact on their attitude formation than does Ecological Knowledge. To check if this is also true for these consumers, management students (n=41) were surveyed to measure their ecological affect, ecological knowledge and attitudes towards green purchases. Students with high ecological affect showed a statistically significant difference on their attitudes towards green purchases score than the students with low ecological affect. Ecological knowledge level did not show a significant difference in attitudes towards green purchases. Differences between ecological knowledge and ecological affect and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Keywords: Planned Behaviour, Green Awareness, Green Purchase, Ecological Knowledge, Purchase Attitude.
Consumer Attitude towards ‘Green’ Purchases
Sustainable energy, organic food, green technology and green products are buzzwords in popular culture, consumer publications and business school course outlines today. Both government and market researchers alike have been studying the reasons consumers purchase green products or make other environmentally friendly decisions. Providing for the environmental concerns of customers is a win-win strategy for the planet and the firm. Green consumers have been shown to be willing to pay a higher price for environmentally friendly products (Laroche, Bergeron & Barbaro-Forleo, 2001; Peattie, 2001), which is a huge opportunity for companies as well as governments looking to make eco-friendly policy changes. The knowledge of the existence of these green buyers is good news for the interested parties, but the task of learning ‘who they are’ becomes greatly important. Even more important might be finding out how consumers can be transformed into green purchasers. When considering all of the factors that make encouraging a desired behavior in consumers difficult, including limited financial resources, understanding what influences consumers’ decisions to purchase green products would be extremely valuable to policy makers and marketers alike.
Chang & Lau (Chang & Lau, 2001) showed that the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) model demonstrated a satisfactory level of external validity in measuring the Green Purchase Behavior (GPB) of consumers. At its most basic level, the theory postulates that an individual’s behavior is determined by her behavioral intention to perform that behavior. Behavioral intention is a function of the individual’s attitude toward the behavior, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control. Figure 1 depicts the theory graphically.
Figure 1. Graphical Representation of the Theory of Planned Behavior
The intention of the above mentioned study was to seek a better understanding of the various factors that determine the performance of environmentally responsible acts. Studies have suggested that because purchasing green products is a decision (Chang, 2001), an individual’s attitude greatly affects his willingness to perform that action. Two key determinants of attitudes are affect and cognition, or knowledge (Chang, 2001). In the present situation these are viewed in an ecological way. Ecological Affect (EA) refers to a person viewing him or herself in a particular situation or being influenced, personally, by particular circumstances. Ecological knowledge (EK) refers to a person’s understanding of the factual evidence surrounding environmental issues.
Although Theory of Planned Behaviour considers an affective construct in consumers’ formulation of attitudes, it does not include a cognitive construct. Another study, focusing on the formulations of attitudes, adds cognitive, affective and cultural constructs to the underlying value – attitude – behavior hierarchy existing within the Theory of Planned Behaviour to measure green purchase behavior. This hybrid model postulates that there are direct causal links between two cultural value dimensions (man-nature orientation and collectivism) and attitudes towards green purchases. It further showed that knowledge and affect also influence individuals’ attitudes. The model is loyal to the other aspects of Theory of Planned Behaviour; that an individual’s behavior is determined by his/her behavioral intention to perform that behavior and behavioral intention is a function of the individual’s attitude toward the behavior. Figure 2 depicts the model graphically.
Where EA= Ecological Affect, EK= Ecological Knowledge, MNO= Man- Nature Orientation, AGP= Attitude towards Green Purchases, GPI= Green Purchase Intention, GPB= Green Purchase Behaviour, Collect= Collectivism Figure 2. Graphical Representation of the Hybrid Model
Previous studies (Laroche, Bergeron & Barbaro-Forleo, 2001; Peattie, 2001; Saphores et al.,2007; Tanner & Sybille, 2003) have found that ecological affect and ecological knowledge influence consumers attitudes towards green products. Chang (2001) shows that ecological affect has a greater influence than ecological knowledge consumers. This study intends to test the same criteria on university students in Jabalpur to see if the findings hold true. The sample in Chang (2001) had a high school graduate education level, on average, while the sample in this study will be graduates, at minimum. There is a possibility that a higher education level may cause ecological knowledge to influence attitudes towards green products in a greater way than in previous studies. The results of this study could help influence marketing strategy and government policy in regards to promoting positive attitudes towards environmental decisions in consumers.
The research questions addressed in the present study are; which factors determine consumer attitudes towards green purchases? As stated above, there are many factors, but the focus in this paper will be on cognitive and affective influences. Therefore the second question of this study is; between cognitive and affective factors, which has a greater influence on Attitude towards Green Purchase (AGP)? Although an underlying area of interest for this study is whether or not higher education levels can cause Ecological Knowledge (EK) to have an elevated influence on attitude towards green purchase, this study aims to maintain the results of the previous literature in the formulation of its hypothesis. In order to measure the strength of the influence of ecological affect and knowledge, this study formulates three hypothesis.
1. The students with high ecological affect scores will show a statistically significant difference on an attitude towards green purchases scale than students with low ecological affect scores. 2. A significant difference will not be shown in reference to attitude towards green purchase scores between students with high ecological knowledge and those with low ecological knowledge. 3. Finally, if the null hypothesis can be rejected in both hypothesis one and hypothesis two, then hypothesis three, stated; ecological affect will exert a stronger influence on attitudes towards green purchases than ecological knowledge, will have been proven. A comparison of hypotheses one and two will determine the outcome of hypothesis three.
The model used to measure the influence of ecological effect and ecological knowledge on green purchase attitudes is represented in figure-3. This model is meant to measure the cognitive and affective structure of attitudes and purposely did not attempt to measure the influence of culture on green purchase attitudes nor did it look at the affect of green purchase attitudes on green purchase intention or its affect on green purchase behavior, which were measured in the previously mentioned study.
Figure 3. The Proposed Model of the Present Study
To measure the above model, a four-part survey was used. In the demographic measurement section of the survey participants were asked to give their age, education level and sex. The demographic section was followed by an explanation of the terms used in the survey, mainly the working definition for green products. The definition comes from Chang & Lau (2001) and is stated on the survey as; “products that either through their manufacturing or usage have a reduced negative impact on the environment when compared to their traditional counterparts.” The second, third and fourth sections recorded attitude towards green purchases, ecological knowledge and ecological affect (AGP, EK and EA) respectively. The survey was distributed physically, with on-site completion and retention in MBA classes. A survey was developed which included all of the data points available to respondents. An evaluation of the survey concluded in 41 usable responses.
Measuring Attitudes towards Green Products- Participants were given three statements coded by a 7-point semantic differential scale (1 to 7) to determine their attitudes towards green purchases (AGP). The mean scores of these three statements were used to measure the significance of the high and low ecological affect and knowledge groups.
Measuring Ecological Affect and Ecological Knowledge- Once attitude scores were measured then ecological affect (EA) and ecological knowledge (EK) items were measured using an adapted ecological scale from the one used in Chang (2001) to assess respondents affect and knowledge relating to general ecological issues. The ecological affect scale was compromised of five statements on a 5-point Likert scale, with 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. The fifth question on the Ecological Affect scale had reverse weighting, meaning that marking 1 was calculated as having 5 points and marking 5 was assigned 1 point. The mean of the points were recorded as the score on the EA scale (1 to 5). The ecological knowledge instrument contained five five-category multiple-choice questions. Each correct answer resulted in one point and the sum of the correct answers comprised the score on the EK scale (0 to 5).
Measuring the Influence of Ecological Affect and Ecological Knowledge on Attitudes towards Green Products – The scores on the 5-point Ecological Affect Likert Scale were used to divided the participants into two groups, those who had high ecological affect (an mean score of 4 or 5 on the scale, based on a median split of the two groups) and those who had low ecological affect (scores of 1 to 3 on the scale). This division method resulted in the high EA group having 21 participants while the low EA group had 20. A similar division was performed on the participants’ scores on the Ecological Knowledge questionnaire. It was divided based on a standard pass-fail evaluation of the five multiple-choice questions.
Those participants who answered three or more of the questions correctly were included in the ‘high EK’ group and those who answered less than three of the questions correctly were included in the ‘low EK’ group. The numbers in the high EK and low EK groups were 22 and 19, respectively. A two-tailed t-Test with two samples assuming equal variances was used to compare the participants’ mean scores on the AGP scale in the high Ecological Affect group and low Ecological Affect group. The same comparison was performed on the high and low Ecological Knowledge groups, but the test used was a two-tailed t-Test with two samples assuming unequal variances.
Sampling Method- A convenience sample was used in this study. As stated above, the survey resulted in 41 responses. As this sample was intended to replicate management students in Jabalpur, the respondents were asked their education level and only management students were allowed to participate in the study.
To provide an overview of the constructs under investigation, Table 1 was developed to display the relevant descriptive statistics for attitude towards green purchases(AGP), ecological affect (EA-including high and low groups) and ecological knowledge (EK-including high and low groups). It should be noted that the descriptive statistics provide some initial support for the hypotheses formulated in this study. As noted in the table, the mean score for the high EA group is significantly higher than the mean score for the low EA group. It is also clear that there is a much smaller difference between the mean scores of the high EK and low EK groups.
Table-1. Descriptive Statistics of the Major Constructs under Investigation |S.No. |Major Construct |Number of Responses |Mean Value |Standard Deviation | |1. |Attitude towards Green Purchases# |41 |5.70 |1.18 | |2. |Ecological Affect* |41 |3.86 |0.82 | |3. |High Ecological Affect# |21 |6.17 |1.25 | |4. |Low Ecological Affect# |20 |5.20 |0.87 | |5. |Ecological Knowledge* |41 |2.56 |1.27 | |6. |High Ecological Knowledge# |22 |5.71 |1.47 | |7. |Low Ecological Knowledge# |21 |5.70 |0.80 |
# Indicates that the score is derived from 7 point attitude towards Green Purchase scale * Indicates that the score is derived from 5 point ecological affect and ecological knowledge (EA/EK) scale.
Ecological Affect- To test the first hypothesis, a comparison of high EA and low EA in relation to AGP means, a two-tailed t-Test of two samples assuming equal variances was performed. The results supported the hypothesis that high EA differs significantly from low EA on an AGP scale.