Research Nugget

What influences SA consumers to buy green products?

With increased awareness of the catastrophic effects of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production on the planet, there is a need to understand which factors influence South African consumers’ purchase of green products to encourage sustainable consumption and green product buying.

Research funded by the NRF investigated the effects of emotional and social values on green purchases and explored the role of knowledge-seeking in the development of these values. Emotional value is derived from products and services that evoke emotional responses while social value relates to products and services with symbolic value beyond their functional utility.

The study found that:

  • There is a positive relationship between social and emotional value and green purchase behaviour. Both emotional and social values are a strong predictor of green purchase behaviour among South African consumers. Consumers driven by emotional value would buy a green product as they feel it is “the right thing to do.” Emotional value constitutes a moral responsibility for them as they believe they are fulfilling their responsibility by contributing to the planet’s wellbeing by partaking in sustainable consumption. The study also supports the notion that social pressures are a key driver of green behaviour and that consumers might be purchasing green products for image and status enhancement.
  • Information seeking has a positive influence on the development of both emotional and social values. Emotional value was found to play a stronger role in driving green purchase decisions compared to social value (which is motivated by the individual’s social group). According to the researchers this finding demonstrates the importance of creating emotional value rather than focusing on social pressures. In addition, this also shows that potential purchasers of green products are seekers of information and marketers should provide adequate information to get consumers interested in green products.
  • The relationships between emotional value, social value, and green purchase behaviour is mediated by environmental concerns. It is through the environmental concern that emotional and social values influence green purchases.

The researchers suggest that marketers should leverage the consumers’ knowledge-seeking and environmental concern in their advertising campaigns by highlighting a specific green product novelty and the connection between green buying and their effect on the environment.

Access the full paper published in the journal Sustainable Development here.