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Exploring green consumers' product demands and consumption processes : the case of Portuguese green consumers

Luzio, João Pedro Pereira and Lemke, Fred (2013) Exploring green consumers' product demands and consumption processes : the case of Portuguese green consumers. European Business Review, 25 (3). 281 - 300. ISSN 0955-534X (In Press)

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Abstract

There is a research gap in terms of understanding how green consumers perceive green products in a marketplace context. This article responds to this omission by exploring the green consumers’ product demands and consumption processes. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with Portuguese green consumers are used to discuss potential key factors (reasons to buy green products, defining green product characteristics, feelings about pricing, perceived product confidence, willingness to compromise, environmental knowledge, consideration of alternatives, product’s point of purchase and use and disposal). The analysis indicates that green consumers represent an artificial segment and provides further empirical support to the definition of sustainability as a market-oriented concept. Our findings suggest that mainstreaming green products is a more positive alternative than green segmentation. This research is exploratory in nature and the authors followed established guidelines to ensure objectivity. However, the study’s findings are restricted to Portuguese green consumers and a replication in other countries would help to remove any potential country bias. Sustainable businesses are eager to learn who the green consumer is in order to define this market segment. This may not represent the best strategy, however. Targeting green products to a niche market based only on intangible environmental or ethical values may not only be hindering the progress of sustainability as a market-oriented concept but also missing the huge opportunity of gaining competitive advantage in the inevitable future marketplace. Most marketing studies were unsuccessful in segmenting green consumers even “on average”, resulting in elusive and contradictory outcomes. Only very few studies aimed at exploring the green consumer’s behavior using qualitative research approaches. This paper explores the product demands of green consumers as well as their consumption processes in detail.