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PhD ceremony Ms. G. Perlaviciute: Goal-driven evaluations of sustainable products

When:Th 27-03-2014 at 14:30
Where:Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

PhD ceremony: Ms. G. Perlaviciute

Dissertation: Goal-driven evaluations of sustainable products

Promotor(s): prof. E.M. Steg, prof. S.M. Lindenberg

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences

This PhD thesis has important implications for promoting “green” products in order to reduce environmental problems. We show that goals play a key role in product evaluations, and we explain how goals, particularly sustainability goals, can be strengthened in order to facilitate positive evaluations of sustainable products. We stress that just using “green” labels does not guarantee that people will evaluate products positively, even if people have strong sustainability goals. Products need to be seen as fulfilling these goals in order for positive evaluations to occur.

Sustainable products such as “green” food products and low-carbon energy alternatives are developed to reduce environmental problems. But how do people evaluate these products? This question is important because people will only adopt sustainable products if they evaluate them positively.

In this this PhD thesis, we take a goal-based approach to explain evaluations of sustainable products. We propose that people evaluate sustainable products based on the extent to which these products enable them to fulfil their goals. The strength of goals in a situation depends on people’s values and cues in a situation that can activate values. Values can be seen as overarching goals that are more or less chronically activated.

People with strong biospheric values find the quality of nature and the environment very important, and may evaluate sustainable products positively, especially when their values are activated by situational cues. This can create a “halo” effect and lead to positive evaluations of many different product characteristics that may even be unrelated to people’s goals. It is therefore important to take people’s goals into account when promoting sustainable products. Sustainability goals will be stronger if people have strong biospheric values and if these values are activated by situational cues. People will strong sustainability goals may evaluate sustainable products positively, but only if these products enable t hem to fulfil these goals. This means that “green” labels may backfire if the labelled products are not seen as sustainable.