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Western consumers' understanding of carbon offsets and its relationship to behavior

Michael Jay Polonsky (School of Management and Marketing, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia)
Romana Garma (School of International Business, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Stacy Landreth Grau (Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA)

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

ISSN: 1355-5855

Article publication date: 15 November 2011



The purpose of this paper is to examine Western consumers' levels of general environmental knowledge and specific knowledge related to carbon offsets and the relationships between specific types of environmental knowledge and consumers' related behaviors.


The study surveyed consumers from Australia (n=345) and the USA (n=340) who were sourced through national online panels. The analysis looks at differences between knowledge and behaviors, both across the samples as well as whether there are differences between consumers with high and low levels of environmental and carbon offset knowledge, and whether demographics impact on knowledge levels.


The results found that consumers had higher levels of general knowledge than carbon offset knowledge and the two types of knowledge were not related. ANOVA results considering country differences and demographic factors found that general knowledge was affected by education, age and gender, with carbon knowledge being affected by education. Environmental behavior was affected by age and gender as well, and no demographic factors influenced carbon‐related behavior. Respondent's location (i.e. USA or Australia) did not influence knowledge or behaviors, but interacted with education in regard to carbon knowledge and behavior.

Social implications

This research suggests that consumers are not acting on their carbon knowledge, which may be due to the debate surrounding carbon issues and/or because the information is based on complex scientific foundations, which the average consumer may have difficulty grasping, regardless of country.


This is one of the first pieces of academic research to explore consumers' understanding of carbon‐related information and how this knowledge impacts behavior. It also proposes a measure for evaluating carbon offset knowledge, which could be used to broaden environmental knowledge assessments.



Polonsky, M.J., Garma, R. and Landreth Grau, S. (2011), "Western consumers' understanding of carbon offsets and its relationship to behavior", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 583-603.



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