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How and when retailers’ sustainability efforts translate into positive consumer responses: the interplay between personal and social factors

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This study aims to address how (through which mechanisms) and when (under which conditions) retailers’ sustainability efforts translate into positive consumer responses. Hypotheses are developed and tested through a scenario-based experiment among 672 consumers. Retailers’ assortment sustainability and distribution sustainability are manipulated. Retailers’ sustainability efforts lead to positive consumer responses (e.g., improved store evaluations) via two underlying mechanisms: consumers’ identification with the store (personal route) and store legitimacy (social route). The effects of sustainability efforts are strengthened if consumers have personal norms favoring shopping at environmentally friendly stores. Remarkably, when controlling for moderation by personal norms, social norms weaken the effects. The findings show that traditional marketing mix elements provide opportunities for retailers to improve their organizations’ bottom line and positively affect consumer (and societal) well-being. This study helps retailers decide whether or not to invest in and communicate about sustainability. Past research has shown the clear potential for positive consumer responses to firms’ sustainability efforts, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms and the conditions under which such responses take place. This study advances theory by examining personal and social factors as mediators and moderators of the retailers’ sustainability efforts–consumer responses relationship.

    Research areas

  • consumer responses, identification, legitimacy, personal norms, retailing, social norms, sustainability, LEGITIMACY, MEDIATION, NORMS, Consumer responses, Identification, Retailing, IDENTIFICATION, Social norms, RESPONSIBILITY, COMPANY, BEHAVIORAL-RESEARCH, INTENTIONS, COMMITMENT, MODELS, Sustainability, Legitimacy, Personal norms
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-492
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2019