Consumers’ Internal Motivations for Sustainable Consumption: An investigation into the effects of consumer image congruence and temporal orientation on the consumption of sustainable goods
A need for a more environmentally concerned society features prominently in academic discussion, popular media, and popular consciousness. However, individuals continue to consume as they always have, with little predicted immediate change. A well-established conversation in the literature highlights the difference between consumer intentions and consumer behaviour with respect to purchasing sustainable goods.
This thesis examines the academic understanding of what internal motivators may factor in an individual's decision to purchase a 'sustainable' good. Image congruence, self-construal, temporal orientation, and temporal discounting are examined in the context of purchasing sustainable goods. The conceptual basis for this research takes the perspective that whilst individuals and society may perceive the purchase of sustainable goods and pro-environmental behaviour as a positive behaviour, individuals may choose to postpone this behaviour, or defer to their own self-interest compared to the interests of the society. Furthermore, there is a cost to sustainable consumption, either monetary or in product effectiveness. Thus, consciously, or unconsciously consumers are responding to a product trade-off.
This research contributes to the academy's understanding of how image congruence, self-construal, temporal orientation, and temporal discounting interact with each other and the interaction between these variables and sustainable goods purchases. To the best of the author's knowledge investigating the three theoretical threads in combination, has not before been accomplished. Image congruence and self-construal offer insights into an individual’s social value orientation. Temporal orientation and temporal discounting can explain how individuals consider actions in the context of the present and future. The inclusion of temporal orientation examines an individual's view of time and decision-making as a consequence of this context. Therefore, image congruence, self-construal, temporal orientation are three powerful internal motivators of behaviour, and their interaction is expected to help explain consumer decision making with respect to the purchase of sustainable goods. Combined, these three factors help to address the consumer trade-off described before. To better understand the nature of sustainable goods purchase intention the effect of age, gender, and parenthood were explored and tested.
This research used a quantitative methodology; a survey distributed to an online survey panel was used to validate and test the conceptual model. The quantitative methodology chosen allows for the collection of a broad range of views from a broad range of participants. Image congruence, self-construal, and temporal orientation were tested using existing scales. Multiple contributions have been made using this approach, including the adaptation of temporal-discounting activity-based scenario to online panel data collection.
An activity to understand how individuals perceive time was designed and an initial test performed. This activity contributes to an understanding of three commonly used term; present, near-future, and far-future. Scale refinement was undertaken to measure the study constructs better using online data collection while temporal discounting was measured using an online activity, rather than an existing scale. A challenge faced was in the construction of an activity, readily understood by survey panel members. Existing scales measuring image congruence, self-construal, and temporal orientation also measured information not necessary to this research and so were further refined. Development of a calculation style question was also tested. This question asked participants to make a choice relative to a baseline choice, for example, 'receive $0, plus $30', rather than, 'receive $30'.
An understanding of how different age groups and family structures consider the future is offered, as well as how these individuals see themselves in relation to society. This understanding offers insight into the divide between attitude and behaviour.
Image congruence and interdependent self-construal were found to be significant predictors of purchase intention. Differing effects were found in the presented model when participants had high or low interdependent self-construal, high or low independent self-construal, high or low income, were younger or older, and whether they were parents. When asked to categorise time, the majority of participants defined the boundary between present, and near future as occurring between 14 and 30 days, and the boundary between near future and far future was considered to occur between six months and twelve months.