Deception aversion and consumer responses to sustainability initiatives

24 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2020 Last revised: 19 Oct 2020

See all articles by Despoina Alempaki

Despoina Alempaki

University of Warwick

Andrea Isoni

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

Yuri Kato

University College London

Daniel Read

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

Hao Wei

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

Date Written: October 18, 2020

Abstract

Companies face increasing pressure to contribute towards a sustainable future while simultaneously providing shareholder value. However, the public may respond negatively to “win-win” initiatives that benefit the environment if they also bring the corporation financial gains. A proposed mechanism for this backlash effect is the violation of communal relationship norms that companies invoke when communicating their win-win initiatives to the public. Here, we demonstrate the backlash effect arises from the alternative mechanism of deception aversion. Companies are evaluated negatively when their actions differ from those implied by their stated pro-environmental policy. We show that earning a profit per se does not undermine sustainability initiatives. But if companies are seen to deceive the public about those initiatives, they are likely to suffer a backlash, whether they earn a profit or not.

Keywords: deception, win-win initiatives, sustainability, profit

Suggested Citation

Alempaki, Despoina and Isoni, Andrea and Kato, Yuri and Read, Daniel and Wei, Hao, Deception aversion and consumer responses to sustainability initiatives (October 18, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3640256 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3640256

Despoina Alempaki (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Scarman Road
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Andrea Isoni

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Yuri Kato

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Daniel Read

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Hao Wei

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

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