Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University

Advisor

Collier, Joel E.

Committee Member

Farmer, Robert Adam

Committee Member

Shanahan, J. Kevin

Committee Member

Breazeale, J. Michael

Committee Member

Cooley, Skye

Date of Degree

1-1-2018

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Marketers have made attempts to understand the disconnect between consumers’ expressed desire to engage in sustainable behavior and their lack of adoption of sustainable products with ambiguous results. Because companies that engage in sustainability initiatives often focus on either environmental or social sustainability, the broader impact of sustainability is not always understood. When a company makes a promise to be socially sustainable, consumers may also think that the company is environmentally sustainable and vice versa. Moreover, consumer evaluations of companies that make promises to be either socially or environmentally sustainable may be different if the company later delivers a success along the same versus the other dimension of sustainability. A success along a sustainability dimension that matches the initial sustainability promise is referred to here as a paired success. Alternatively, complementary successes incorporate both sustainability dimensions, where a company first promises to be sustainable along one dimension of sustainability but later delivers a successful outcome along the other sustainability dimension. Attitudes are expected to be enhanced when a company delivers a complementary because the company has accounted for consumers’ interconnection of the sustainability dimensions. A failure to be sustainable along either dimension is predicted to diminish consumer evaluations of the company. Four experiments were conducted to explore the interconnection between social and environmental sustainability and its effect on consumer evaluations of the company. Study 1 first examines the prediction that consumer perceptions of social and environmental sustainability are interconnected in consumers’ minds. Study 2 then examines how consumers’ attitudes towards companies that make either social or environmental sustainability promises compare to companies that do not make sustainability promises. Additionally, study 2 investigates how consumer attitudes towards companies are impacted by paired and complementary successes and sustainability failures. Study 3 explores the psychological mechanisms of perceived sincerity and competence. Finally, study 4 is a behavioral choice experiment used to generalize the findings to actual behavior, exploring how the interconnectedness of social and environmental sustainability influence consumer product choices. The findings from these studies offer insights into how consumers perceive companies that consider both the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability.

URI

https://hdl.handle.net/11668/17553

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