To read this content please select one of the options below:

An exploration of environmentally-conscious consumers and the reasons why they do not buy green products

Micael-Lee Johnstone (School of Marketing & International Business, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.)
Lay Peng Tan (Department of Marketing and Management, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 3 August 2015




The purpose of this paper is to understand how and why environmentally conscious consumers rationalise their non-green purchase behaviour.


Seven focus groups were conducted. A total of 51 people, aged 19-70 years, participated in the study. Theoretical thematic analysis was used to organise the data as various themes emerged.


Through application of neutralisation theory, this study identified additional barriers to green consumption. Two new neutralisation techniques emerged, namely protecting (maintaining) one’s sense of self and consumer attachment to the brand. These techniques recognise the impact consumer culture has had on consumers.

Research limitations/implications

The study took place in an urban centre hence the views of the participants may be different from those who live in rural centres; low-income consumers were under-represented; and more male participants would have been desirable.

Social implications

Despite its limitations, this study reveals that consumers will rationalise their decisions in order to protect their self-esteem and self-identity. Until green becomes a social norm, consumers will continue to place individual goals over collective goals. Understanding this rationalisation process is important if marketers and policy makers want to encourage behavioural change.


This study makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the green attitude-behaviour gap. It provides fresh insights into how environmentally conscious consumers vindicate their non-green consumption behaviours and how marketers and policy makers can overcome these challenges. It also identifies two new neutralisation techniques and extends the theory to a consumer culture context.



This study was funded by Victoria University of Wellington.


Johnstone, M.-L. and Tan, L.P. (2015), "An exploration of environmentally-conscious consumers and the reasons why they do not buy green products", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 804-825.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles