An analysis of consumer response to environmentally certified, ecolabeled forest products Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/zc77sv53k

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  • Historically, researchers have used surveys, focus groups, and anecdotal evidence to evaluate consumer response to environmentally certified, ecolabeled forest products. These methods generally measure consumer attitudes toward certified forest products. Since the strength of the correlation between attitudes and behavior has long been questioned, consumer response to certified forest products is not fully understood. Therefore, a major goal of this research was to better understand consumer response to environmentally certified, ecolabeled forest products by directly observing purchase behavior. This was accomplished by designing an experiment in which consumers were presented with a choice between virtually identical forest products, the only differences being the presence/absence of an environmental certification ecolabel, and in some cases, a price premium on the ecolabeled product. During this experiment, the presence of the ecolabel was associated with increased sales, so long as there was no price premium on the ecolabeled product. The strength of this association was weakened when the ecolabeled product cost 2 percent more than the non-ecolabeled product. In other words, these results suggest that price is a more compelling product attribute than the ecolabel. This experiment was the first to empirically demonstrate that forest certification ecolabels do have an effect on consumer behavior. In addition to the experiment, two surveys were conducted to better understand how consumers form their preferences for forest products, and to determine which values, attitudes, and beliefs are held by those most likely to purchase ecolabeled forest products. The surveys revealed that respondents who: were younger, willing to pay extra for ecolabeled forest products, exhibited past environmentally friendly purchase behavior, believe environmental claims on product packaging, and were more politically liberal were most likely to buy ecolabeled forest products. It is important to note that no associations were found between any of the measured values and those most likely to purchase ecolabeled forest products. This finding suggests that in order to for ecolabels to be successful in the long term, marketing efforts are needed, which explicitly link the ecolabel symbol to values. Such a linkage will allow consumers to express their values through the purchase of ecolabeled products. This practice of linking values to a product is widely believed to be a powerful influence on consumer behavior. The surveys also revealed that ecolabeled forest products are preferred to non-ecolabeled forest products for most consumers. However, the strength of this preference pattern varies significantly among consumers. This finding suggests that a market segmentation strategy is required to effectively market environmentally certified, ecolabeled forest products. Therefore, the associations between attitudes, values, and beliefs with those most likely to purchase ecolabeled forest products is practically significant for forest certification agencies and environmentally certified forest landowners and manufacturers because it can be used for market segmentation, and to begin building brand recognition, awareness, and identity for forest certification ecolabels. Finally, the research questions posed in the experiment and survey were carefully designed to be nearly identical. This "duality' allowed a comparison of the results obtained by each method. Such a comparison revealed, as has long been suspected, that the results differed by method. This finding has important implications for further research on this topic.
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