When Sustainability is Not a Liability: The Halo Effect of Marketplace Morality

Chernev, Alexander, and Sean Blair. "When sustainability is not a liability: The halo effect of marketplace morality." Journal of Consumer Psychology 31.3 (2021): 551-569.

Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 3988829

19 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2021

Date Written: 2021

Abstract

Prior research has suggested that consumers believe that products made using sustainable, envi-ronmentally friendly technologies are likely to underperform those made using traditional methods. We question the robustness of this assumption and identify scenarios in which sustainability is likely to have the opposite effect, strengthening rather than weakening consumers’ product perfor-mance beliefs. Specifically, we argue that sustainability is likely to produce a halo effect able to at-tenuate and even override the negative impact of compensatory inferences underlying consumers’ belief that sustainability comes at the expense of performance. We propose that this halo effect stems from consumers’ view of the company as a moral agent engaged in a prosocial behavior. In this context, we identify two factors that are likely to influence the strength of the halo effect: the degree to which consumers view the company as a moral agent whose actions aim to benefit socie-ty and the degree to which moral concerns are prominent in consumers’ minds. Following this line of reasoning, we identify two ways in which managers can increase the perceived performance of sustainable products: by associating sustainable benefits with the company rather than with its products and by emphasizing the societal benefits of sustainability. We test these predictions in a series of four empirical studies that show convergent evidence for our theorizing. Our findings have important public policy implications, documenting actionable strategies that managers can use to mitigate the potential negative impact of sustainability and strengthen the perceived performance of sustainable products.

Keywords: Sustainability, Halo, Green, Marketing, Moral reasoning, Environment

Suggested Citation

Chernev, Alexander and Blair, Sean, When Sustainability is Not a Liability: The Halo Effect of Marketplace Morality (2021). Chernev, Alexander, and Sean Blair. "When sustainability is not a liability: The halo effect of marketplace morality." Journal of Consumer Psychology 31.3 (2021): 551-569., Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 3988829, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3988829

Alexander Chernev (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Marketing ( email )

Kellogg School of Management
2001 Sheridan Rd.
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Sean Blair

Georgetown University - McDonough School of Business ( email )

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

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