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Recycling cooperation and buying status: Effects of pure and competitive altruism on sustainable behaviors

Diego Costa Pinto (NOVA Information Management School, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)
Márcia Maurer Herter (Universidade Europeia, Lisboa, Portugal)
Patrícia Rossi (IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS UMR 9221), Paris, France)
Walter Meucci Nique (Business School, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil)
Adilson Borges (NEOMA Business School – Campus de Reims, Reims, France)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 April 2019

Issue publication date: 6 June 2019




This study aims to reconcile previous research that has provided mixed results regarding motivation for sustainable behaviors: pure altruism (cooperation) or competitive altruism (status). Drawing on evolutionary altruism and identity-based motivation, the authors propose that a match between pure (competitive) altruism and individualistic (collectivistic) identity goals enhance consumers’ motivations to engage in recycling (green buying).


Three experimental studies show how pure and competitive altruism are associated with specific sustainable consumption (Study 1) and how altruism types should be matched with identity goals to motivate sustainable consumption (Studies 2 and 3).


Study 1 shows that pure altruism is associated with recycling but not with green buying. Studies 2 and 3 show that pure (competitive) altruism and individualistic (collectivistic) goals lead to higher recycling (green buying) intentions.

Research limitations/implications

The present research extends previous findings by showing that pure and competitive are indeed associated with specific sustainable behaviors. The authors suggest that the interaction between motives and identity goals can lead to a greater impact on recycling and green buying intentions.

Practical implications

Public policymakers and companies will benefit by better understanding how specific combinations of altruism types and identity goals can foster recycling or green buying intentions.


This research is the first to show how matches between pure and competitive altruism types and individualistic and collectivistic identity goals affect consumers’ motivations to engage in recycling and green buying.



Costa Pinto, D., Maurer Herter, M., Rossi, P., Meucci Nique, W. and Borges, A. (2019), "Recycling cooperation and buying status: Effects of pure and competitive altruism on sustainable behaviors", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 5, pp. 944-971.



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