Title: The role of carbon emissions in consumer purchase decisions

Authors: Christopher Groening; J. Jeffrey Inman; William T. Ross Jr.

Addresses: College of Business Administration, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, USA ' Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, 356 Mervis Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA ' School of Business, University of Connecticut, 2100 Hillside Road Unit 1041, Storrs, CT 06269-1041, USA

Abstract: The central research question that this paper addresses is how the presence and content of a carbon emission label could influence consumer product choice. The authors develop and test a framework based on accountability. The first group of studies establishes that carbon emissions and a carbon emissions label play a role in consumer product decisions. The second group of studies shows that the lowest levels of carbon emissions are preferred at the usage stage followed by the transportation and disposal stages, with the manufacturing stage last. However, these results can be modified by carbon emissions dispersion across life-cycle stages. For instance, a product with the same level of emissions at each life-cycle stage is preferred to a product with widely varying emissions at each stage even if the lowest amount occurs in the usage stage. The third group of studies shows that consumers value recycling compared to other forms of carbon emission offsets. Finally, consumers prefer that companies run their own offset programmes, rather than outsource them, despite acknowledging that firms are less likely to have equivalent carbon offset expertise.

Keywords: accountability; sustainability; carbon emissions; carbon footprint; product life cycle; consumer choice; consumer behaviour; purchase behaviour; purchasing decisions; product choice; environmental labelling; recycling; carbon offsetting; sustainable development.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEPDM.2015.074719

International Journal of Environmental Policy and Decision Making, 2015 Vol.1 No.4, pp.261 - 296

Accepted: 31 Jan 2015
Published online: 15 Feb 2016 *

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