A recent study reveals that car buyers prefer hybrid cars, eco-friendly washing liquids and other energy saving devices over cheaper alternatives which cause more harm to the environment to have a better social status.
Researchers have indicated that the new generation of car buyers is more inclined towards benefiting from the perceived higher social status that is achieved by buying a product that causes less harm to the environment. They are even willing to sacrifice their luxury as well as performance of the vehicle in order to achieve the status of a responsible green citizen.
Driving a large luxury car is certainly indicative of the wealth of the owner but at the same time, it also exhibits the lack of concern for the environment. On the other hand, someone who drives a hybrid car such as the Prius not only flaunts his wealth because hybrids cost way more than fuel efficient cars but also his concern for the environment which gives him a respectful place in the society.
The study carried out three experiments. In one experiment, 168 students were divided into two groups out of which one read a story that conveyed social status while the other read a story without it. Subsequently when given a choice between a green car and a non green model at same price with better performance, 37% of the control group members chose the green option. This figure escalated to 54.5% when they were made to read stories fabricated to “activate status motives”. The experiment revealed that playing on the desire of getting a better status is one of the best ways to motivate people to make green choices.
In another test, a group of 93 students was asked to make choices between similarly priced green and non green products at public as well as private places. It was found that preference to buy green products was more when the students were in public as compared to when they were in private.
The third experiment revealed that those people who have a concern for their status in their mind buy greener alternatives when they are more expensive than the non green ones.
The authors of the study which includes Joshua M Tybur of University of New Mexico and Vladas Griskevicius of University of Minnesota concluded that these experiments have led to untapped source of encouraging greener behavior.
Adam Corner who has been working as a research associate at Cardiff University said that a number of people may try to flaunt their social status though conspicuous use of green products. They do not care about benefiting the environment from their actions but they do pay a lot of heed to what others think of them. Like most other psychologists and researchers, he also concluded that the power of social status can be channelized into promoting change in attitude towards environment protection.
The study however had one drawback which casts a shadow of doubt over the authenticity of its results. None of the persons involved in the study had to dig into their wallets when they were to make choices. Michael Volvo of Toyota UK states that his company’s market research reveals that cost of ownership and attraction towards advanced technology has been the main reason behind the sale of Prius car and not concern about the environment or social status.
The results of the study also failed to bring to light the complications in ethical human activity. Rob Harrison from Ethical Consumer Magazine says that if you have a look at ethical spending of a cooperative bank, you would notice that almost one thirds of it is on investment and banking which is not possible until the brochures keep lying around on the coffee table making it a non-green act. He further added that a number of the readers of Ethical Consumer bought green products because they were focused towards a goal and not towards achieving a higher social status.
A different study concluded that ethical consumers display kindness less often and are more inclined towards stealing. This claim has been regarded by Rob as a shallow understanding of the larger ethical consumer movement. A number of leaders of big business houses such as Coca-Cola, Tesco and Reckitt Bencksier believe that disastrous climate change can be averted through green consumerism.