Eco-Friendly Brands to Drive Sustainable Development – Part I

Eco-Friendly Brands to Drive Sustainable Development – Part I

Introduction

Companies have had minimal impact on decreasing the pace of environmental degradation, as their main targets are business growth and increasing consumption.

More research is still needed to find effective measures for guiding companies and consumers towards sustainability, for example, with objective nonfinancial measures for comparing the environmental and social performance of companies and industrial sectors as well as the outcomes of their marketing efforts.

The linkages between the consumer and market levels that lead to both sustainable consumption and production (SCP) as well as market change on the macro level need to be understood so that sustainable development can be promoted on a large scale.

Hence, we maintain that in order to drive sustainable consumption we need to measure micro-level phenomena on the consumer level and link them to the level where companies have an impact on sustainable development.

More measures have been called for to help companies monitor consumers and understand their consumption experiences so that the companies can better support consumers’ sustainable consumption and also achieve their own triple bottom line (TBL) goals for sustainability.

For consumers, it is critical that eco-friendly products can be used properly for what they have been designed. Some of the goals that consumers have set for products can also be abstract, such as being able to consume products in an eco-friendly manner.

The implementation of SCP requires the involvement of different stakeholders, including consumers, with a systemic approach as well as more cooperation among the stakeholders.

In particular, the role of consumers in the implementation of SCP has been highlighted. “Pro-environmental behavior change” has been called for both by research and policymakers, as consumers are expected to change their consumption habits into a more sustainable direction.

In the 1990s, governments, companies, and consumer-citizens became increasingly concerned about environmental protection, which accelerated the research efforts in the field of societal and environmental marketing.

However, research has been fragmented and needs to develop further. In brand management research, very few brand constructs include an aspect of eco-friendliness, and most of them have not been operationalized into scales.

However, there are several indications from earlier studies that the brand satisfaction and brand loyalty of consumers can be associated with the eco-friendliness and green values represented by the brand.

Thus, eco-friendly branding could help companies to promote sustainable development and motivate consumers to make more sustainable consumption decisions.

Brand eco-friendliness means that the brand does not harm the environment, and in connection with SCP, the assumption is that the manufacturers have eco-friendly production processes and consumers’ consumption habits are eco-friendly.

The aim of this study is to explore how the brand experience scale of Brakus et al., with an extension for measuring the eco-friendliness of brand experiences, can be applied cross-nationally.

More replication and extension research has been called for, to discover empirical generalizations instead of focusing only on the creation of new concepts that result in isolated studies.

We concentrate on exploring micro-level sustainable behaviors in the consumer markets, and in doing so we shed light on the possibilities to link the micro and the macro levels in a balanced approach to sustainable development.

We focus on individual consumers who are end users of products, not other stakeholders, for example, in the supply chain. This paper makes a number of contributions: We investigate how different aspects of eco-friendliness in consumers’ brand experiences are perceived cross-nationally in India and Finland and whether these aspects can be measured cross-nationally with an extended brand experience scale based on Brakus et al. and Saari.

The possible perceptions of eco-friendliness consumers associate with the brand experiences they have with consumer electronics brands have not been previously measured and investigated cross-nationally.

In addition, we propose how in the theoretical microfoundations model a consumer-level measure could drive sustainable consumption and sustainable development initiatives in companies, using the management of e-waste as an example.

Considering brands as decisive elements for consumers in their consumption behavior, and consumers’ brand experiences as important input to companies for managing brands, we examine how brands are associated with sustainability and the role of global brands in supporting sustainable development.

Then, we introduce how consumers’ brand experiences regarding the eco-friendliness of brands could help to drive sustainable development. We show empirically that consumers in different national contexts experience brands differently in terms of the eco-friendliness dimension.

Finally, we present and discuss the results, which inform corporations on consumers’ attitudes towards eco-friendly and sustainable consumption, thus facilitating the implementation of eco-innovations and sustainable development initiatives that promote SCP.