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Consumers' categorization of eco-friendly consumer goods: an integrative review and research agenda

A. Larrañaga, C. Valor

Sustainable Production and Consumption Vol. 34, pp. 518 - 527


Understanding how consumers categorize a consumer good as eco-friendly is key to facilitating consumers' purchasing of products with lower environmental footprints. Scholarship has increasingly addressed this question. However, most research has examined a single cue that prevents the building of a holistic explanation. An integrative review of studies may provide not only a synthesis of the state of the art but also an overarching integrative theoretical framework that explains what cues consumers use to categorize products as green and the mechanisms guiding the interpretation of these cues. This review of 29 studies examining consumers' assessment of eco-friendliness in consumer goods unearths five cues used as surrogate indicators of eco-friendliness. Nevertheless, these cues are not entirely related to the actual environmental footprint of a product based on the life cycle assessment. Drawing from schema categorization theory, an integrative theoretical framework is presented whereby categorization processes are said to be guided by consumers' lay theories. A research agenda is outlined to stimulate new lines of inquiry around lay theories and product attributes.

Spanish layman's summary:

Cuando los productos no tienen un sello o etiqueta, ¿cómo categorizan los consumidores si es o no “verde”? Esta revisión de la literatura identifica los atributos en los que se fijan los consumidores para decidir. Estos atributos no tienen apenas nada que ver con el impacto ambiental de un producto.



English layman's summary:

When products do not carry an environmental label o claim, how do consumers categorize whether or not it is a green product? This systematic review identifies the attributes consumers pay attention to in order to categorize a product as more or less eco-friendly. The attributes used have limited bearing on the actual environmental footprint of products.

Keywords: Literature review; Environmentally friendly products; Packaging attributes; schema categorization; Lay theories; Life cycle assessment

JCR Impact Factor and WoS quartile: 12,100 - Q1 (2022)

DOI reference: DOI icon https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2022.10.005

Published on paper: November 2022.

Published on-line: October 2022.

A. Larrañaga, C. Valor, Consumers' categorization of eco-friendly consumer goods: an integrative review and research agenda. Sustainable Production and Consumption. Vol. 34, pp. 518 - 527, November 2022. [Online: October 2022]

    Research topics:
  • Management and measurement of stakeholder satisfaction