Document Type




Pub Date

Spring 5-28-2015

Journal Title

Journal of Business Ethics






Consumers are increasingly facing product evaluation and choice situations that include information about product sustainability, i.e., information about a pro- duct’s relative environmental and social impact. In many cases, consumers have to make decisions that involve a trade-off between product sustainability and other valued product attributes. Similarly, product and marketing man- agers need to make decisions that reflect how consumers will respond to different trade-off scenarios. In the current re- search, we study consumer responses across two different possible trade-off scenarios: one in which consumers face a trade-off between product sustainability and hedonic value, and another in which they must trade-off between product sustainability and utilitarian value. Our results suggest that, overall, consumers are more likely to trade-off hedonic value (e.g., esthetics) for sustainability than to trade-off utilitarian value (e.g., functional performance) for sustainability. In Studies 1A and 1B, we presented participants with a product choice task and also measured their anticipatory emotions as they contemplated their options. The results suggest that given a trade-off, consumers are more likely to choose a sustainable product when they have to trade-off hedonic value than when they have to trade-off utilitarian value. Further, these studies provide some insight into the emotions underlying this effect. In Study 2, we use a different

& Minu Kumar

Michael G. Luchs

consumer response measure, relative purchase likelihood, and investigate the effect of trade-off type across categories that vary in the degree to which hedonic and utilitarian at- tributes are perceived to be important (referred to as ‘product type’). Our results suggest that the effect of trade-off type still holds, yet is moderated by product type such that con- sumers’ greater willingness to trade-off hedonic value (vs. utilitarian value) for sustainability is attenuated as the relative importance of hedonic (vs. utilitarian) attributes increases. In addition to building on our theoretical understanding of de- cision making given trade-offs with moral attributes, this research is also intended to support managers as they define and choose among various strategic, product development, and marketing promotion options.



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