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Title: Overcoming the performance liability of environmentally friendly products : an examination of subtle signals and green attribute optionality
Author: Usrey, Bryan Gordon
ISNI:       0000 0004 6494 6049
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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With the ever-growing threat posed by climate change in the minds of the world’s population, consumers are being asked to alter their consumption behavior, in the hope that such a change may help address current and future climate challenges. Thus, conventional wisdom would suggest that firms should develop and promote a product based on its environmental credentials. In doing so, consumers are likely to feel as though they are making a positive impact on the environment. However, despite the importance of environmental consumption, green products are often viewed as orthogonal with product performance. Given the importance placed on a product’s performance ability, firms seeking to promote green products may find that their previously assumed asset has become a liability. In the present thesis, we aim to explore two unique strategies in which a firm can enhance a green product’s perceived performance ability. The first is that of green product communication strategy. While firms may desire a communication strategy whereby the product environmental attribute is the focal component, we posit that such an approach maybe have negative consequences. Therefore, we develop and test the concept of green understatement. In this strategy, a firm employs subtle (vs. explicit) environmental attribute signals to communicate a green product’s environmental aspect. The results of three experiments show that a green understatement communication strategy leads to higher performance evaluations. Moreover, we introduce several boundary conditions, whereby this effect becomes stronger in situations of higher performance criticality (Experiment 1) and far social distance (Experiment 2) but is mitigated when the environmental attribute becomes optional (Experiment 3). Furthermore, we examine the mediating mechanism of autonomous motivation, whereby a green understatement communication strategy positively impacts on a consumers’ sense of autonomy, thus enhancing performance evaluations. The second strategy that we explore is the role of green attribute optionality, whereby the green attribute becomes optional via two distinct default policies (i.e. opt-in and opt-out). Thus, although the green attribute is present and may enhance the products’ environmental characteristics, it is not required for it to function. The findings of three experiments demonstrate that the opt-in green attribute optionality strategy increases performance evaluations compared to the non-optional and opt-out strategies (Experiment 4). Moreover, we find that this effect is negated when an individual possesses an analytical, as compared to a holistic, mindset (Experiment 5). Finally, we show that green product typicality mediates the relationship between green attribute optionality and performance evaluations (Experiment 6). Specifically, when the product is seen as typical to the green product category, performance evaluations erode. Our findings help advance our theoretical understanding of the role of green product communications and attribute optionality. Moreover, we provide managerial insights into the promotion and the production of green products to alleviate the sustainability liability.
Supervisor: Palihawadana, Dayananda ; Saridakis, Charalampos ; Theotokis, Aristeidis Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available