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Consumer Adoption of Low-Involvement Eco-Innovations: A Social Perspective

Human activity has historically been a significant contributor to ecological degradation. Environmental concerns have not always held a central place in the priorities of individuals. However, there has been a noticeable shift towards promoting more sustainable consumption and production practices to address the environmental challenges faced by society. Experts have emphasised one primary recommendation – the expanded use of lower carbon-intensive energy sources, including wind, solar, and hydropower, facilitated by the adoption and implementation of eco-innovations.

Understanding the factors influencing consumer preferences for environmentally friendly products over alternatives is of paramount importance, as the achievement of sustainable development depends on the sustainability of consumption. While substantial research has explored the adoption of high-involvement eco-innovations, the significance of minor consumer choices in contributing to environmental sustainability should not be underestimated. Consequently, it is imperative to comprehend the determinants of consumer adoption of low-involvement eco-innovations, an area that has received limited exploration.

Furthermore, there is a dearth of research and empirical investigation into consumers’ perceptions of eco-innovation and its impact on pro-environmental consumer behaviour. The United Nations General Assembly recognises the pivotal role of human sustainability values in shaping attitudes and behaviours towards sustainable development. While some studies have examined the influence of environmental concerns on consumer attitudes towards eco-friendly products and others have highlighted the role of personal and green values in driving eco-friendly purchasing behaviour, none have delved into the connection between the extent of green consumption and the adoption of eco-innovations.

A study conducted by researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain, a nation strongly committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda, has revealed improvements in the well-being of its population and the state of the environment. Spain has prioritised the development and adoption of eco-innovations, evident in its position as one of the “average eco-innovation performers” according to the European Commission’s Eco-Innovation Index for 2022. However, despite a substantial body of research on eco-innovation development and adoption by businesses, there is a shortage of studies focused on the individual level.

Eco-innovations, in this context, encompass the creation or refinement of products and processes designed to conserve energy, reduce pollution, recycle waste, or implement environmental management. Their objective is to make products and processes less harmful to the environment than alternative options. These innovations can be categorised into various types, including eco-technologies, organisational innovations for the environment, ecological products and services, green systems, and new materials. Furthermore, they can be classified as high- or low-involvement products, depending on factors such as price, risk, and technical complexity.

The adoption of eco-innovations by environmentally conscious consumers is a multifaceted phenomenon driven by their values and motivations related to environmental awareness and green consumption. The level of green consumption, indicating a consumer’s commitment to environmental protection and the selective purchase of ecological products, is a crucial consideration in this context.

Taking a social perspective into account, social influence and prosocial attitudes emerge as influential drivers of green consumer behaviour. This influence is rooted in personal norms, representing individual perceptions of what is morally right or wrong. Personal norms play a substantial role in guiding consumers towards environmentally friendly choices, influenced by the perception of a product’s attributes, including both its technological and symbolic dimensions. Consumers value eco-innovations for their environmental and technological attributes, with symbolic aspects significantly impacting consumers’ purchase decisions.

Social norms and societal recognition significantly impact the adoption of eco-innovations, particularly when these products possess strong symbolic attributes. Social pressure and social conspicuousness exert influence on the adoption of eco-innovations, motivating consumers towards pro-environmental choices.

Research has demonstrated that green consumption indirectly influences eco-innovation adoption through mediating factors like perceived technological and symbolic attributes, as well as social pressure and social conspicuousness. In essence, the relationship between green consumption and eco-innovation adoption is entirely mediated by how consumers perceive these products and the social context in which they are embedded.

These findings hold critical implications for both businesses and policymakers. Companies seeking to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers should focus on developing eco-innovations that emphasise not only their environmental attributes but also their technological and symbolic dimensions. Understanding consumer motivations can assist companies in creating more compelling and relevant products. Effective marketing strategies should highlight these attributes, resonating with consumers’ values and emotions.

On the policy front, governments must strengthen environmental policies, promote sustainability education, and invest in research and development for eco-innovations. Alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals is crucial, and efforts should be made to encourage companies and individuals to adopt eco-innovations.

While several factors influencing adoption are known, further research is essential to explore mediating variables such as perceived risk, environmental concern, and other facets of innovation. Finally, as technology continues to play an increasingly significant role in consumer behaviour and product development, future research should examine the impact of technological change on eco-innovation adoption.

Insights by: Dr Jay Wasim