Consumer Perceptions on CSR--a synopsis of the subject---(Part-2)
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Consumer Perceptions on CSR--a synopsis of the subject---(Part-2)

Consumer Perceptions on CSR

According to the work of Brunswick (2016), the changing trends of the world have increased the sense of awareness among consumers and they have become more interested in the consequences of their purchase behaviours which will in turn influence their quality of life. In addition to consumer-specific factors such as individual support for CSR issuesSen & Bhattacharya  (2004, cited in Castaldo et al., 2016) identify the other moderator of the response of consumers to CSR to be company-specific factors which indicate the particular issues that the organization focuses on. In fact, they suggest that the consumers’ reactions to CSR depend on the amount of overlap they perceive between the company’s character and their own (Lee and Park, 2016). Additionally, the corporation’s ability in constructing a connection between its image and its CSR practices so as to create consciousness among the consumers depends on judgement and perception of the society (Wang, 2016). Given these points, it can be drawn how communication of CSR, which indeed goes far down to the corporate image and triggers competitive advantage, is important for the company to reach out to the crowd and express its truly intention.

When combined with marketing, some consumers find the engagement of CSR initiatives distasteful; therefore advertisement having social dimensions has to be managed sensitively as outlined by Schultz and Morsing (2003, cited in Pomering and Dolnicar, 2016). Similarly Sen & Bhattacharya  (2004) highlight the diversity of consumer perspectives and according to their findings “… one size does not fit all” (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2004, p.10). Moreover, their contingent, consumer-centric conceptualization -as they call- of CSR identifies various elements of consumer reactions in order to express when, how, and why CSR works. Subsequently, their view of CSR implies that corporate social initiatives can be compared to a black box where company, consumer, and competition are considered as inputs and the output comes in forms of benefits to company, consumer together with the cause/issue (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2004).

Furthermore, the outcomes can be interpreted to be twofold as internal and external. The former one pointing to consumers’ awareness, attitudes, and attributions should matter to the company as much as the latter which involves loyalty and purchase behaviour

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The reason for that is, strengthened customer relationships via innovative and less-imitable CSR initiatives have strategic importance in the current market where product differentiation is decreasing unlike competition (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2004). Besides, there are multiplier factors that have effect on both internal and external outcomes. The last but not the least, it is worthwhile to note that the framework involves behaviour modification as an impact on consumer which is an external outcome.

Consumer Perception on Environmental Sustainability and Green Movement

It has been a common subject matter for the marketers that demographics had influence on green consumers’ behaviours; however, research indicate that there is no such relationship between factors regarding being male/female, educated/not educated, young/old and attempt towards using green products as put forward by Straughan and Roberts (1999, cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006). This outcome is further supported by Peattie (1998, cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006) who suggested that the focus should be moved from individual consumer to individual purchase. Indeed, this suggestion was based on Kardash’s (1976, cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006) study who stated that every consumer was a potential green consumer because if they were to select two identical products, most of them would choose the one which was less harmful to the environment.

Subsequently, Peattie (1998, cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006) identified two factors, which influenced consumers’ perception on product selection amongst the ‘equal’ green and the non-green ones, to be the degree of compromise and the degree of confidence. The former, which is interpreted by   Oates and McDonald (2006) to be the effort taken, meant that the consumer might have to pay more, travel to have access to the product or sacrifice by means of performance; whereas the latter, which is interpreted by   Oates and McDonald (2006) to be the difference made, indicated the effectiveness of consumer’s perception on how well the product addressed the issue/cause. Then, these two factors were put into a matrix  by Peattie (1998, cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006) who intended to explain the four combinations of green purchases in a discourse from a combined point of view of marketing and sustainability.

Since the above matrix concentrated solely on the act of green purchase,   Oates and McDonald (2006) emphasized that it was only a fraction of the consumption process and product use along with product disposal needed attention, as well. In line with Huang’s (2016) suggestion of green product life cycle.   Oates and McDonald (2006) put forward that sustainability is an issue that can be truly achieved when considered as a whole without distinguishing between purchase and disposal, also without taking the social and ethical aspects into account

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By and large, their findings reveal that environmental practices can be interpreted so diversely among individuals that a general marketing strategy aiming for all is hardly possible. Moreover, consumers do not necessarily inter-relate the effort taken and the difference made; therefore, marketing activities may be destined for either effort or difference (Oates and McDonald, 2006).

Remarkably,   Oates and McDonald (2006) have outlined perception stereotypes as ‘optimist’ and ‘pessimist’ on the grounds that the respondents of their research showed tendency to give positive answers. Nevertheless, the consumers’ approval in their questionings does not translate into environmental actions due to their feelings towards giving the answer which they think is ‘right’ (Barr, 2002; Perrin and Barton, 2001, both cited in   Oates and McDonald, 2006). Therefore, it can be claimed to be usual for the researchers in this area to face conflicts regarding the judgement of consumers’ actions and outcomes.

Struggles in Consumption

On the other hand, there is a ‘behaviour/attitude gap’ in the market since the consumers struggle to translate their concern about environmental issues into their purchases because they engage with an increasingly complex decision making process (Young et al., 2016). Equally important, the work of McDonald et al. (2016), who compares sustainable consumption patterns across sectors including small electrical products, reveals that the lack of study, which centre specifically on the purchase of these kinds of appliances by green consumers, is worrying since the sector has the fastest growing waste stream in the EU (Darby and Obara, 2005, cited in McDonald et al., 2016).

Unlike the green movement and consumer perception towards purchase of such products in general as mentioned before, the focus for the major life cycle stage for small electrical goods is on disposal phase (McDonald et al., 2016) which is distant enough from the time that the product is bought. Besides, sustainability criteria are rarely used regarding the purchase of such products while brand is by far the most ruling decision making criterion (McDonald et al., 2016). In either case, the gaps both in attitude of consumers and in related study need compelled vision to be delivered positively by governments and businesses in order to help simplify things for people when making greener purchase decisions (Yates, 2016).

Relationship between Humans and Technology

Within centuries, technology has been deeply fused into peoples’ lives such that it has become a requirement rather than a necessity. In return, this requirement developed its own consumption of time, effort, intelligence, and natural resources, as well. A study aiming to contribute to the reduction of environmental impact of technology by understanding its relationship between human behaviour introduces the four most critical roles that clarify the analysis (Midden et al., 2016). According to Midden et al.’s (2016) work, the first role of technology to take part in the consumption of natural resources is an intermediary one which is probably the easiest to realize since it can be observed in everyday life. It relates to peoples’ affluence and to the type of technology they employ; yet, it involves unavoidable utilization of the environment. The next role is considered as a choice favouring performance while the relationship suggests that technology serves as an amplifier. Subsequently, such behavioural processes at microlevel strongly affect consumption, thereby carrying the sustainability concern to macro level (Jager and Mosler, 2016) and revealing the resemblance to the ripple effect.

Another role of technology in resource conservation is where it is seen as a determinant that contains peoples’ change in decision making apart from their motivations. This kind of change in behaviour,which channels the consumers into reconsidering the technology they make use of, can be communicated by CSM as mentioned previously. The final critical role of technology is categorized to be a promoter which enhances the awareness of consumers by multimedia usage that makes the unobservable apparent (Midden et al., 2016). After all, it can be concluded that the presence of technology is a means to achieve consciousness while in some ways it is considered as a means to environmental detriment

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