Disparity of consumer’s perception and brands’ sustainable practices
Stacy Lee, and Jana Hawley, University of Missouri, USA
Keywords: Sustainable practices, Brands, Consumer perception, Mind mapping
The recent 3 percent increase in sales of sustainable clothing suggests that consumers are highly concerned about sustainability and thus have altered their purchasing decisions toward greater sustainability (Goworek, Fisher, Cooper, Woodward & Hiller, 2012). In other words, sustainability has become a pivotal issue, as and companies are compelled to respond to it as a long term strategy both for the company companies and for society as a whole. An industry report by Finnerty, Stanley & Herther (2013) found that industry executives fundamentally believe that their organization’s sustainability commitment is a long term goal and that their commitment will only grow over time. Strategic social and environmental sustainability issues in the clothing industry can includes encouraging sustainable clothing consumption, better employee working conditions and wages, limited ause tion of pesticides, use, and disposal of used garments (Goworek et al., 2012).
However, companies are reluctant to share information about sustainable business practices due to consumer the misperception, on the part of consumers, ofmisperceptions that sustainable practices as a mere marketing ploy (“Market LOHA”, 2013). Consequently, lack of communication from brands regarding sustainable practices has resulted in consumers’ remaining unaware of the growing range of sustainable options across categories, thereby preventing consumers from purchasing sustainable products (Finnerty et al., 2013). In response to increased information about sustainable practices on the part of brands, young consumers become aware of those brands’ environmental responsibility and consider the brands to be moral citizens; also, many brands strive to appeal to young consumers (Goworek et al., 2012). To close the gap of the disparity between consumers’ perceptions and brands’ sustainable practices, this study aims to understand consumers’ perception of sustainable attributes of brands, and to explore the discrepancy between consumers’ perceptions and brands’ sustainable practices.
To achieve the research objective, this study was comprised of two parts: 1) four open-ended interview questions to explore the depth of consumers’ understanding of sustainability; and 2) mind mapping illustrating four terms related to sustainable practices among brands: recycling, human rights, environmental conscious, and donation and charity. Personal mind mapping, which can be an effective method to “measure how a specific learning experience uniquely affects each individual’s understanding or meaning-making process” (Adams, Falk, & Dierking, 2003, p. 22), was utilized. This study was specifically designed with a view to young consumers in college since many brands target young consumers, and also college students are...