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18-03-2020 | Original Paper | Issue 2/2021

Journal of Business Ethics 2/2021

Price? Quality? Or Sustainability? Segmenting by Disposition Toward Self-other Tradeoffs Predicts Consumers’ Sustainable Decision-Making

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics > Issue 2/2021
Authors:
Spencer M. Ross, George R. Milne
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Abstract

Current research suggests consumers trade off price, quality, and sustainability attributes when making choices. Prior studies have typically focused on product attribute dyads, rather than multiattribute decision-making in the sustainability context. For scholars and practitioners, understanding which attributes are more important to consumers in tradeoff contexts has been a challenge. Self-other orientation may play a significant role in predicting consumers’ sustainable choices. We use prior research on equity sensitivity to demonstrate that segmenting consumers by their disposition to self-other tradeoffs (i.e., their self-other orientation) helps predict price–quality–sustainability tradeoffs. We hypothesize and test how members of these equity sensitivity segments tradeoff price, quality, and sustainability attributes in consumption decisions. Through four conjoint studies featuring diverse product assortments and sustainability issues, we find that price provides high utility for Entitled consumers, while sustainability provides high utility for Benevolent consumers. When product attributes are combined, Benevolents are more likely than Entitleds to purchase sustainable products. We also demonstrate that, in the absence of product choices, Equity Sensitives are more willing to choose a sustainable option over a conventional option, even when prices are high. In light of these findings, we discuss the implications for scholars looking to broadly predict consumers’ sustainable choices and for firms looking to target consumers with consumer-centric sustainability strategy.

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