How to improve consumer contribution to the CSR agenda? Utilising the example of CO2 emission reduction in the dairy industry

Jensen, Barbara (2021) How to improve consumer contribution to the CSR agenda? Utilising the example of CO2 emission reduction in the dairy industry. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Over the past two decades, sustainability has become an important strategic goal for companies in all industries. Under the headline of sustainability, environmental protection has gained importance in business, politics, and civil society. Alongside other topics in the context of environmental protection, Greenhouse Gas Emissions play one of the most important roles in many industries and the concern around them is often manifested in a focus on CO2 emission reduction. The international focus on low Greenhouse Gas Emissions development strategies was established by the United Nations Climate Conference in 1992, first measures were implemented with the Kyoto Protocol (1997) which later in 2015 was superseded by the Paris Agreement. In Paris a commitment was made to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit this temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Household and individual consumption behaviours account for a substantial share of CO2 emissions and there is general consensus that human consumption contributes to environmental problems. Within the academic literature, there is an increasing number of studies devoted to pro-environmental consumer decision making, mainly focusing on high involvement purchase decisions and pro-environmental consumer behaviour. The aim of this study is to empirically examine the consumer pro-environmental decision-making process in the context of low involvement “everyday” products, such as dairy products, to support the industry in strengthening consumer contribution to the CO2 emission reduction goals of dairy companies. In addressing the research aims, two theoretically-grounded frameworks that are often used in consumer psychology and marketing literature, namely the Behavioural Reasoning Theory and the Norm Activation Model, have been combined and applied. The theoretical framework of this study proposes that consumer purchase intention can be predicted through global motives (i.e. attitude, social norms, and behavioural control), as well as altruistic and pro-social motives (i.e. personal norms). Including context specific ”reasons for” and ”reasons against” the consumer decision within the framework helps to explain the attitude further by including a justification argument for these decisions. Data used for this research have been collected through an electronic self-completion questionnaire using a random sample (n=791) of German consumers, aged between 18 and 64 years old. The data has been analysed using the Partial Least Square Structural Equation Model. The results confirm that the consumer consideration of CO2 emission reduction when purchasing food products, such as dairy products, is mainly driven by personal norms and attitude. The pro-social motives have a stronger impact than attitude and significantly strengthen consumer attitude. The main reason justifying the consumers’ purchase intention is the environmental benefits related to the purchase of the products. On the other hand, the main ”reasons against” their purchase intention is scepticism towards the industry’s investment in CO2 emission reduction, doubts whether dairy companies have the possibility to change and control the whole supply chain, and uncertainty whether a change in the own consumer purchase behaviour has an impact. This study advances the academic literature and has implications for practitioners. Its academic contribution is primarily demonstrated in the moral obligations aspects of decision making that can strengthen the purchase decision for low involvement consumer products, such as dairy products. A more in-depth consideration of contextual reasons can further develop a better understanding of the consumer purchase decision. From the perspective of practitioners, the study facilitates the development of strategies to reinforce consumer attention to CO2 emission reduction in the food industry, especially the dairy industry, and helps to increase consumer contribution to ambitious company goals around CO2 emission reduction.

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