With the progress of production technology and the rapid development of industrial economy, most countries have moved from agricultural civilization to industrial civilization, and the consumption model of industrial civilization has also emerged, whose basic characteristics are: the pursuit of convenient and large-scale consumption lifestyle (Yan, 1997). Although the consumption patterns for mankind have created unprecedented material wealth, but increasingly result to scarce resources, serious pollution problem, such as the huge threat of the quality of human existence and the sustainable development of economic and social, which make humans begin to realize the disadvantages of industrial civilization consumption patterns. Moreover, since the reform and opening up, China’s rapid industrialization not only promotes the rapid growth of GDP, but also results in a variety of environmental problems. In particular, the result of “Chinese style decentralization” local competition behavior of extensive economic development mode has led to serious environmental pollution, among them, the song hua river pollution incident in 2005, the taihu lake cyanobacteria incident of 2008, 2012 of guang xi long jiang cadmium pollution events, 2014 Beijing haze weather events as the typical case (Zhao, 2014). Environmental problems also involve more and more social problems, greatly affecting the stability of the country and society. In this context, the economic development model at the expense of the environment is overshadowed, and the sustainable development model emphasizing the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental and social performance has become the yardstick for government decision-making. After gradually realizing these problems, green consumption also began to attract the attention of the majority of scholars.
Green consumption refers to consumption behaviors that reduce environmental pressure, including buying cars with lower energy consumption, choosing public transportation, saving water, and supporting recycling of product packaging, etc. (Kazdin, 2009). Since the concept of green consumption was put forward, it has been continuously expanded, and the research on green consumption should clarify the characteristics of green consumption. In addition, green consumption itself is more complex and comprehensive, and green consumption behavior requires more systematic behavior. Clear green consumption characteristics are conducive to distinguishing different green consumption behaviors, so as to better guide people to conduct green consumption.
In this paper, we start from the review of the concept of green consumption, green consumption behavior and the factors affecting the consumers’ green consumption behavior under different aspects and perspectives. We analyze the formation mechanism of green consumption behavior. Based on this, we finally advance the research in the past some limitations and future research directions.
2. Green Consumption and Green Consumption Behavior
2.1. Green Consumption
Since the emerging of the green consumption, which results to a lot of popular of a large number of consumers, is a kind of brand-new consumption way and living belief. It considers the environmental impact, resource efficiency and consumer rights mode of consumption. Green consumption is based on consumer health protection and resource conservation and conforms to people’s health and environmental protection, its core is the sustainable consumption. According to the China Consumers’ Association, green consumption has three main meanings: First, it encourages consumer to consume green production. Second, it pays attention to the disposal of garbage in the consumption process to avoid environmental pollution; Third, it guides consumers to change their consumption concepts, advocate nature and pursue health. While pursuing a comfortable life, we should save resources and energy and achieve sustainable consumption.
In 1987, Elkington and Hailes, British scholars, proposed the concept of “green consumption” in their book Green Consumer’s Guide, and defined green consumption as avoiding the consumption of the following commodities: 1) commodities that endanger the health of consumers and others; 2) commodities that consume a great deal of resources during production, use and disposal; 3) goods that are unnecessarily consumed due to excessive packaging, exceeding the commodity substance or the short life span; 4) use of commodities derived from rare animals or natural resources; 5) commodities containing cruelty to animals or unnecessary deprivation; 6) commodities that adversely affect other countries, especially developing countries (Lin & Xu, 2000; Xu, 2007).
At present, the “5R” principle of green consumption is universally recognized in the world (Save resources, reduce pollution; green life, revaluate; the choose and buy used repeatedly, reuse; classification, recycling; the protection of nature, rescue) (Wang, 2006). This concept broadly includes both the consumption behavior and the cognition and ideas of consumption. Draw lessons from this line of belief and based on psychological theory, green consumption is put forward by the green consumption cognition, green consumption attitude and green consumption behavior. Green consumption cognition refers to the understanding of green consumption and the related knowledge and familiar with the situation; green consumption attitude refers to the psychological tendency of green consumption, which is in favor of or against; green consumption behavior refers to the specific behavior happened in the process of consumption, such as the use of disposable products, to buy energy-saving products, etc. According to the psychological and behavioral science point of view, and consumers’ green consumption cognition affect green consumption attitude and behavior, green consumption attitude can also affect the green consumer behavior. These three aspects are closely linked, inseparable, and constitute the concept of green consumption.
Moreover, Si (2002) assumes the characteristics of green consumption contains at least four aspects: people’s minimum consumption of resources and energy consumption (economic consumption), the waste and pollutants result from the process of consumption is minimum (clean consumption), the result of consumption do not endanger the health of consumers or others (safe consumption), and the results of consumption stay away from endangering human offspring demand (sustainable consumption). Pan (2003a) believes that green consumption advocates first moderate consumption, then green products, then spiritual consumption, and finally simple life and easy life. Green consumption is conducive to changing the pattern of economic growth and is the only way to achieve sustainable development. Besides it is conducive to promoting harmony between man and nature, conducive to comprehensively meeting the needs of human survival and health, and promote the free and all-round development of human beings, and thus realizing the fair, reasonable and sustainable development of human society (Pan, 2003b).
2.2. Green Consumption Behavior
Raukoff & Wu (2013) believes that green consumption behavior is a consumer behavior in which consumers try to protect the ecological environment and minimize the negative impact of consumption on the environment during the purchase, use and post-use of commodities. Chen et al. (2013) believe that green consumption behavior refers to a sustainable and responsible consumption mode, in which consumers realize the purpose of purchase and reduce environmental losses after being aware of environmental problems. In previous literatures, the appellation of green consumption behavior is not quite uniform. Some scholars use the term “ecological consumption”, while others use the term “green consumption”. While after the analysis and comparison of scholars, “green consumption” and “ecological consumption” are essentially consistent. In this paper, the term “green consumption behavior” is adopted, while in other literatures, the term “green purchasing behavior” is adopted. There is no essential difference between them. The existing definition of green consumption refers to the rational consumption of consumers considering the protection of their own health and individual interests on the premise of paying attention to the protection of the ecological environment, reducing the waste of resources, preventing pollution and assuming social responsibilities. Other researchers understand that green consumption is a specific type of consumption behavior with social consciousness and social responsibility, in which consumers consider the consequences of their behaviors.
Green consumption behavior is a kind of prosocial behavior (Griskevicius, Tybur, & Van Den Bergh, 2010). Myrseth and Fishbach (2009) believe that prosocial behavior is similar to self-control .To be specific, when exercising self-control, individuals need to resist short-term temptations in order to gain long-term benefits. For example, people resist the temptation of delicious food in order to lose weight. Selfish behavior as opposed to prosocial behavior usually brings short-term benefits to the individual, which is also a temptation that the individual needs to resist in order to engage in prosocial behavior. In addition, Martinsson, Myrseth and Wollbrant (2012) found that individual willpower for self-control is positively correlated with prosocial behavior.
Green consumption is a kind of environmental behavior. Scholars focus on the impact of environmental behavior factors, which has a reference significance for the research of green consumption. Stern (2000) divides environmental behaviors into four categories: environmentalist, environmental behaviors at the public level, environmental behaviors at the individual level and other environmental behaviors. Environmental behavior at the public level refers to people’s willingness to pay more taxes and support environmental regulation for the sake of the environment. Environmental behavior at the individual level mainly refers to green consumption. Other environmental behaviors mainly refer to some environmental behaviors of enterprises. In addition, green consumption is different from other environmental behaviors. First of all, green consumption is a consumption behavior. Customers will weigh the cost, quality and environmental protection. Second, customers will use green products and brands to build and express themselves to some extent. The difference between green consumption and other environmental behaviors may lead to differences in the influence of some factors on green consumption and other environmental behaviors.
3. Factors Influencing Green Consumption Behavior
3.1. The Influence of Consumers’ Own Factors on Green Consumption Behavior
3.1.1. The Influence of Consumer Innovation on Green Consumption Behavior
According to the research of Rogers (1983), consumer innovation can be defined as the degree to which consumers accept market innovation earlier than others in their social environment. Consumer innovation comes from consumers’ pursuit of new consumption experience, which is the embodiment of cognitive need, it is basic human motivation in the process of consumption selection. Consumer innovation has an important impact on consumers’ purchasing behavior. The research of Im et al. (2003) and Chen (2011) show that consumer innovation has a significant impact on consumers’ purchasing behavior of new products. The research of Chang and Zhu (2007) and Lassar et al. (2005) show that consumer innovation significantly affected consumers’ acceptance of online shopping and online banking. The results of Raukoff’s (2013) research show that consumer innovation has a significant impact on green consumption behavior, and its mechanism is to influence consumers’ green consumption intention through influencing consumers’ attitude toward green consumption, subjective norms and perceptual control, thus influencing green consumption behavior, which see in Figure 1. The results also show that man, younger people, people with higher education and higher income have higher consumer innovation (Raukoff & Wu, 2013).
3.1.2. Sociodemographic Variables
From the perspective of existing studies, socio-demographic variables have a significant impact on individuals’ positive environmental behaviors, and many scholars have pointed out that socio-demographic variables are one of the most important factors influencing positive environmental behaviors. Bai and Wan (2012) found that certain demographic variables, such as age, gender, income
Figure 1. The influence of consumer innovation on green consumption behavior.
status and education level, were related to green consumption behavior. For instance, there is a positive correlation between age and green consumption behaviors, green consumption behaviors tend to be more obvious in young, higher income, higher education level. Women, especially who are married and have children. However, the statistical significance is not high, and sometimes there are even contrary research conclusions. Past surveys have found that the greenest consumers tend to be “highly educated, older, higher-income, liberal-oriented women,” while the least green tend to be “young, apolitical, less-educated men.” This survey is consistent with the characteristics of green consumers in people’s subjective impression, and has also triggered a hot research on the influence of objective factors of consumers on green consumption behavior. The objective factors of consumers themselves mainly involve gender, age, marital status, education level, occupation, income and whether there are children in the family. But including the Si (2002), He & Yang (2004), Bai and Wan (2012), Qiu (2012), objective factors on consumer itself and green consumption behavior research has failed to prove that there is relationship between the two, the results of different scholars often contradict each other in a large number of researches. Even if some scholars claim that there is relationship, but is also believed to have no conviction. Therefore, academic circles tend to believe that although objective factors have a certain influence on green consumer behavior, their influence is not significant and cannot be compared with other factors. Therefore, many scholars turn to explore factors influencing green consumer behavior from other perspectives. Use either SI (MKS) or CGS as primary units. (SI units are encouraged.) English units may be used as secondary units (in parentheses). An exception would be the use of English units as identifiers in trade, such as “3.5-inch disk drive”.
3.2. The Influence of Lifestyle on Green Consumption Behavior
He and Yang (2004) and Li’s (2006) researches results show that the consumer’s way of life has a significant effect on green consumption behavior. Green consumers often are opinion leaders, attaches importance to oral communication with others, likes to try new products, is sensitive to the price, but the consumer is rational, in addition, the green consumers more trust in magazines and other media in writing. Chen (2007) found in his 2007’s research that there was a causal relationship between consumers’ lifestyle and green consumption behavior. Specifically, consumers’ opinion leadership, advertising information, impulse buying, price sensitivity, media preference and new product trial were the main influencing factors of green consumption behavior. In terms of research methods, most foreign scholars use the sampling survey to conduct empirical research. They obtain data through the actual investigation of a large number of people, and use a variety of statistical methods to analyze the acquired data. Research methods used by domestic scholars are not the same. Li (2006), He et al. (2011), Luo et al. (2009), Yu (2009) and others summarize and analyze green consumption from the theoretical level based on theoretical basis, without data support. He et al. (2004), Si (2002) and Bai & Wan (2012) used the method of sampling survey to obtain data, and made simple arrangement of the data. He and Yang (2004), Qiu et al. (2012) obtained data through sample surveys and conducted a variety of statistical analyses on the data, thus drawing conclusions.
3.3. The Influence of Psychological Factors of Consumption Behavior on Green Consumption Behavior
Chen et al. (2013) believe that the psychological process of green consumption behavior includes cognitive process, emotional process and volitional process. The cognitive process includes environmental knowledge, environmental awareness and consumer perceived effectiveness. In the emotional process, due to the influence of culture and values, some consumers will form a positive environmental attitude, thus forming a green consumption intention. Volitional process is a psychological process from consuming intention to green behavior, including subjective norms and perceived behavioral control. For psychological and behavior, Ajzen (1991) theory of planned behavior from information processing, explains the general decision-making process of human behavior, this theory is widely considered to human behavior has the very good explanatory power and forecasting power, so the academia about behavior psychological study of the influence of green consumption behavior basic within the framework of planned behavior theory. Tarkiainen & Sundqvist (2005), Luo et al. (2009), Yu (2009), He et al. (2011) and other research results show that consumers’ green consumption attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavior control and intention are likely to impact on green consumption behavior, but these factors affect the mechanism of green consumption behavior are still not sure, it is necessary for further research. However, if the behavioral psychological factors involved are further refined into values, environmental protection attitudes, perceived effectiveness of consumers, personal ethics, environmental protection knowledge and other aspects, the research conclusions are relatively consistent. Studies by Stern (2000) and Verbeke et al. (2007) show that these behavioral psychological factors have a significant impact on green consumption behavior.
Social psychology always regards attitude as an important predictor of behavior, behavioral intention and an explanatory factor of individual behavioral differences. In many researches on environmental behavior, most of them regard “environmental attitude” as one of the most important psychological variables to predict and influence environmental behavior. Through a large number of empirical studies, researchers have found that environmental attitudes are significantly correlated with green consumption behavior. Although the research on the role of green consumption attitude in the internal formation mechanism of green consumption behavior is still in the exploration stage, the mediating role of environmental attitude has been confirmed by the existing research results.
Values are a kind of enduring belief in specific behavior patterns and life meaning formed by people. Values provide a powerful internal driving force for the occurrence of consumption behavior and play a great role in guiding consumption. Environmental knowledge most studies prove that there is a positive relationship between environmental knowledge and environmentally friendly behavior, but some still reach the opposite conclusion. The evidence of different conclusions reflects that there may be a more complex relationship between knowledge and behavior: environmental knowledge may not act directly on environmental behavior, but is an indirect factor influencing environmental behavior. Environmental awareness refers to people’s attention to the environment around them. Studies show that environmental consciousness can motivate people to change their own behavior, in order to achieve the purpose of easing concerns. Consumers perceived barriers is engaged in a consumer expectation of unfavorable factors, mainly including awareness of time, perception, financial resources and perception effect three aspects respectively refers to consumers’ green consumption takes time, money and the effect of expectations. Expected obstacles may prevent consumers from translating their willingness to spend green into action. Intention most studies on green consumption behavior have confirmed the close relationship between green consumption intention and environmentally friendly behavior.
3.4. The Influence of Objective Factors on Consumers’ Green Consumption Behavior
The objective factors influencing consumers’ green consumption behavior mainly involve the government, enterprises and the third sector. The social and cultural environment shaped by the government and the macro consumption environment are the important factors influencing green consumers’ purchasing behavior. The influence of green production enterprises mainly involves four aspects: the green degree of production mode, the green degree of green products, the cost of green products and the performance of green products. And the third sector includes environmental protection organizations and mass media, which influence green consumption from publicity, education and other aspects. Scholars more and more aware of the policy tool is put into practice the concept of green consumption of effective important way, in the process of the related content of policy tools, many scholars agree that the right policy tools to effectively improve infrastructure, improve consumer awareness, motivate consumers green consumption, is helpful to form good social morals and norms to protect the environment.
3.5. The Influence of Self-interest and Social Interest on Green Consumption Behavior
In addition to the five dimensions in the big five model, optimism and pessimism are also important dimensions of personality (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009). Studies have found that individuals who are optimistic about the environmental protection process are more likely to make green consumption. Individuals who are optimistic about the results of environmental protection are less likely to make green consumption. Individuals who are pessimistic about the environmental protection process are less likely to make green consumption. Individuals who are pessimistic about environmental outcomes and have “high self-esteem” are more likely to make green purchases.
According to the theory of explanation level, people describe things more abstractly under the condition of high level explanation; under the condition of low-level explanation, people describe things more specifically (Xu & Xie, 2011). Under the condition of high level of interpretation, customers are more likely to make green consumption. While at a low level of interpretation, customers are more likely to make green consumption when they hear about serious environmental problems in other places, compared to when they don’t hear about serious environmental problems in other places.
Adjustment orientation theory is a new development of motivation theory, which has become a research focus in the field of marketing (Yao & Le, 2009). People who promote orientation see their goals as hopes and desires. Prevention-oriented people view the same goals as responsibilities and obligations, and their strategy is primarily to avoid things that are not aligned with their goals. People who prevent orientation are more likely to consume green than people who promote orientation. Compared with the promotion orientation, the possibility of green consumption is higher when the prevention orientation is started. The degree of customer concern for social interests plays an intermediary role.
In cross-cultural studies, the ego in different cultural backgrounds is divided into two types: interdependent and independent. Among them, the Oriental self tends to be more interdependent, while the western self tends to be more independent. Within the same culture, as in the east, people also differ in their interdependence and independence. The study found that “interdependent” people were more likely to make green purchases when others were watching than “independent” people. When others are watching, starting the “interdependent” rather than the “independent” will lead to a higher possibility of green consumption. The degree of concern for social interests plays an intermediary role.
In exchange relationship, the purpose of one party to benefit the other party is to obtain some return, while the relationship between strangers is a typical exchange relationship. In a mutual relationship, one partner CARES about the other and considers the needs of the other. People’s relationship with family members is a typical mutual relationship. People with strong altruistic values pay more attention to social interests than people with weak altruistic values, and are more inclined to engage in environmental behaviors (Stern, 2000). Compared with the exchange relationship specification, the common relationship specification is helpful for customers to make green consumption. The degree of concern for social interests plays an intermediary role.
Customers often use products to build or express their self-image. A modern or future way of life in which it is considered fashionable. Laran and Janiszewski (2011) the logic of similar, when customers are asked more considering the aspects of green consumption fashion, customers may tend to use green products to build yourself, it may lead to the possibility of customers to buy green products is higher, and customers will be green consumption as compared to “limit” for their when customers see green consumption as “fashion”, the higher the possibility of customers to buy green products.
4. The Action Mechanism of Non-Green Consumption Behavior
In recent years, the issue of green consumption has become a hot topic in the academic circle, but there is a lack of attention to non-green consumption. This paper summarizes the research from the perspective of influencing factors of non-green consumption behavior, so as to obtain the mechanism of influence on green consumption behavior from various aspects. For example, in exploring for a consumer product advertising is inclined to green or not green reaction, Schuhwerk and Roxanne (1995) think non-green is not friendly to the environment, in green power and non-green power as an example to explore the enterprise and enterprise between internal product conversion cost model, Linda (2009) defined the green electricity to come from non-renewable resources and strong negative environmental externalities, in Wales and a group of a group of little green hotel not little green hotel as a comparative object, the solid waste management of the small hotel, Hatem and Eleri (2012) think that the characteristics of the little green hotel is the solid waste disposal is not environmental protection, have a negative impact on the environment and customers’ health. From the above literatures, it can be seen that scholars’ understanding of non-green either is not friendly to the environment, or has a negative impact on the environment and customer health, or USES non-renewable resources, fundamentally focuses on the environment, resources and customer health. This is consistent with the focus on green consumption. Based on the theory of consumer choice and taking extravagance and waste as the moderating variable, we construct a conceptual model of the formation mechanism of typical non-green consumer behavior. The results show that consumer preference, reference group and face concept have significant positive effects on typical non-green consumption behavior, while budget constraint and social responsibility consciousness have significant negative effects on typical non-green consumption behavior. The trend of extravagance and waste has a significant moderating effect on the influence of budget constraint, reference group, social responsibility consciousness and face concept on typical non-green consumption behavior, but no significant moderating effect on the influence of consumer preference on typical non-green consumption behavior.
According to the theory of consumer choice, how to make choices when consumers are faced with the trade-offs of products. Consumers’ choices depend not only on their budget constraints, but also on their consumption preferences. When the two reach the optimal balance, consumers make the optimal choice (Gregory, 2012). For example, Wong and Ahuvia (1998) believe that the differences in social and cultural values between east and west affect consumers’ consumption choices. East Asian consumers pay more attention to the social attributes and symbolic meanings of luxury goods than western consumers, which are closely related to the impact of the concept of face. As green consumption behavior is affected by many factors, Wu (2004) believe that at present, Chinese consumers have insufficient motivation to choose green consumption actively, and there are mainly a series of obstacles such as consciousness, market demand, price, production, consumption environment, knowledge and externality. Consciousness barrier refers to that consumers’ consciousness of ecology, environmental protection and social responsibility cannot meet the requirements of green consumption. Market demand barrier refers to the lack of green consumption desire or purchasing capacity. Price barrier refers to the fact that green products are usually much more expensive than general products. Production barrier refers to the difficulty, high cost, high risk and uncertain profit of developing green products. Enterprises are reluctant to develop and produce green products. The consumption environment barrier refers to that some enterprises carry out false green advertising, package common products or even fake and inferior products as green products, and use green product labels illegally, which seriously threatens the survival and development of the green product market. Knowledge barrier refers to the general lack of knowledge guidance when Chinese consumers make green consumption. Externality barrier refers to the fact that green products of private benefit are relatively easy to be accepted, while green products of public welfare are rejected due to their non-compensation for their positive externalities.
In addition, Lawrence and Marshall (1992), through the theory of behavior change, summarized the influencing factors of behavior change into three types, that is, propensity factors, contributing factors and reinforcement factors. The reinforcing factors are mainly constituted by the community environment of the behavior subject (Green & Kreuter, 1994). For example, the extravagance and waste ethos is a comprehensive representation of China’s community environment (Duan & Yang, 2012), which plays a regulating role as the reinforcing factors of typical non-green consumption behaviors.
5. Research Limitations and Future Research Prospects
Throughout the domestic and foreign studies of green consumption, study abroad has been relatively mature, proposes and discusses the concept and connotation of green consumption, from the perspective of philosophy, economics, ecology and so on, analyzes the significance of green consumption, and uses the Likertt scale method, structural equation model and regression analysis of quantitative research methods. Researches study the influencing factors of green consumption behavior intention and actual behavior from different perspectives of consumers’ own objective factors, the psychology and lifestyle of green consumption behavior, and put forward several impeding factors of green consumption behavior. However, many of these conclusions have not been agreed by scholars; especially the impact of consumers’ own objective factors on green consumption is quite different and even contradictory. In addition, the reliability and applicability of TPB model based on planned behavior theory are also considered to need further testing. At present, the research on green consumption in China is developing rapidly. From the perspective of research status and trend, there is little difference between China and foreign countries, and a lot of work has been done on the concept definition, meaning interpretation, constraint factor analysis and guiding strategy discussion of green consumption. However, most of these studies are not systematic. We have not put forward our own guiding theory of green consumption behavior to support the research work, and the empirical studies on foreign TPB models based on planned behavior theory are not convincing enough. All kinds of studies have certain limitations and fail to reach a unified conclusion. At the same time, there are more qualitative researches than quantitative ones in the existing researches in China. Moreover, due to the lack of reliable theoretical models to guide the existing researches, the designed scales and the investigation process are not convincing enough, leading to the conclusion of the quantitative researches. In addition, in terms of research objects, green consumption is almost equated with green product purchase, while the greenization of consumption process and consumption concept is ignored. Future research can be considered to expand in these aspects.
In the study of future green consumption behavior, China should establish its own theoretical system, and explore the mechanism influencing consumers’ green consumption behavior according to the cultural differences and social value system in China. In addition, from the perspective of consumers, the research on green behavior should be in-depth exploration of the behavioral mechanism of green consumption behavior.
The research in this paper has some limitations, but it also represents the direction of future research. First of all, there are many types of influencing factors of green consumption behavior, but we distinguish the influencing factors of green consumption behavior from the factors of consumers themselves, objective factors, and factors of self-interest and social interests. However, we fail to make in-depth discussion on other influencing factors of green consumption behavior. In addition, this paper only studies the concept of green consumption, green consumption behavior and the influencing factors of green consumption behavior, but does not study the effect of green consumption behavior and the measures to promote green consumption behavior. In the end, the research on non-green consumption behavior is only to supplement this paper, but also to carry out in-depth research. This part can also be used as a breakthrough point to study green consumption behavior.
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