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Journal of Indian Business Research

“I don’t buy LED bulbs but I switch off the lights”: Green consumption versus
sustainable consumption
Nitika Sharma, Raiswa Saha, Rudra Rameshwar,
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“I don’t buy LED bulbs but Sustainable

I switch off the lights”
Green consumption versus
sustainable consumption
Nitika Sharma
Received 30 January 2018
Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Revised 11 April 2018
New Delhi, India 20 April 2018
4 June 2018
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Accepted 6 June 2018

Raiswa Saha
SRM University Delhi – NCR Sonipat, Haryana, and
Rudra Rameshwar
L.M. Thapar School of Management, Thapar Institute of Engineering and
Technology (Deemed to be University) Patiala, Punjab, India

Purpose – The rationale of viewpoint is to comprehend green consumption (GC) and sustainable
consumption (SC). The purpose of this study is to understand how the phenomenon of sustainable and green
consumers perceives in an everyday perceives in an everyday/routine life in modern today’s dynamic world
society, where consumers clients are highly encouraged towards use and practicing sustainability, also to
understand people’s personal lived experiences in this affair of green and SC processes. The adoption of
sustainable business strategies has been a well-thought-out plan which act as a foremost driver for the
socioeconomic development.
Design/methodology/approach – Present study is based on phenomenological interviews, using
interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) which has offered a platform to investigate, explore and
discover to talk about latent prime aspects (causes to procure or adopt green products, its category,
expression of feeling about perceived product self-assurance, readiness to pacification and consolation,
familiarity of environmental-friendly products, reflection of alternatives, make use of and abandonment).
Semi-structured exhaustive dialogues with Indian green consumers are set up to stimulate dialogue on
their viewpoint.
Findings – The findings classify bewilderment of how sustainability applies in routine style for sustainable
and GC followed by the consumers with respect to his/her behaviour and challenges of SC over GC,
predominantly for ecological and environmental issues, and there was cynicism concerning higher pricing
order of green and sustainable products available in market. Interestingly in findings framework, the analysis
designates that green consumers represent a non-natural segment and offer auxiliary experiential description
of sustainable development or sustainability as a measure of sustainable market and its orientation concept.
Research limitations/implications – The idiographic nature of IPA, particularly phenomenological
approach, may be considered as a research limitation. Well-presented research work is exploratory in nature;
and a research team is followed by well-known guidelines in order to make certain impartialities. Though, the
research conclusions are limited to Indian GC and a replication or limitation into different nations would aid in
the direction to get rid of several probable nation partiality.
Practical implications – In a nutshell, here findings exemplify that green or sustainable consumers are
shifting sustainable ideology from one situation to another, and that by speaking about sustainability, these
consumers possibly will obtain a competitive lead. Journal of Indian Business
Social implications – The results or findings reveal green or sustainable consumers’ augmented © Emerald Publishing Limited
association with sustainability and the role expected from them to create better society and world. DOI 10.1108/JIBR-01-2018-0040
JIBR Originality/value – The research work exclusively places green or sustainable consumers’ dependence on
heuristics to show sustainable preferences or choices, due to the lack of information and awareness, and it
entails that sustainable concepts and sustainability are becoming popular nowadays; ever more included into
their everyday behaviours and practicing. Very limited research studies have been done to investigate the GC
and SC; measuring consumers’ actions using qualitative research approaches through IPA approach. This
paper explores their consumption pattern and processes in detail.
Keywords Sustainability, Market segmentation
Paper type Conceptual paper

It is quite evident that every organisation is encouraging societal people to look at
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sustainable consumption (SC), production and green consumption, which are significant
characteristics of sustainable development comprehensively, and which entirely depends on
achieving and accomplishing long-standing economic intensification that is reliable with
ecological, environmental and collective community needs.
At large, federal or central government level, policy focusses on stemming the green crash
of exposed manufacturing making environment, principally all the way through policy and
taxes. Encouraging SC, which is evenly imperative to limit unenthusiastic environmental,
ecological and social externalities as well as to offer markets for sustainable products.
While societal distinctiveness is prominent, self-development intentions have a
comparable divergence on green consumption. The trend towards bearing in mind the social
extent of SC has led to additional consideration to how products are formed.
Clients or consumers gradually are more concerned with not only the polluting or
healthiness effects of the consumption of products but also the impacts which that
consumption may have on the features of production, including workers and resources.
Progressively more complicated approaches and announcements are being used by
government(s) to accomplish objectives of related policies, focussed on consumer groups
based on superior thoughtfulness of social, economic and environmental behaviour aspects.
Mixes of instruments tend to be more effective in promoting SC in certain product
groups. The complexity and array of government tools and initiatives directed at SC
underline the need for more integrated programmes and institutionalisation of SC in
sustainable development strategies.
High levels of consumer’s specific attention towards rapid industrialisation and
environmental hazards have led them towards adoption of more environmentally friendly
lifestyles. Conservationism has become a major concern and has created huge demands for
green consumerism (Prothero et al., 2010). To comprehend this understanding, green
products are designed to safeguard and minimise the environmental impact of its
consumption patterns (Janssen and Jager, 2002).
The study of green consumption towards the promotion of environmental sustainability,
past researchers have long attempted to understand the consumer’s decision-making process or
why they opt for green products and what factors influence them to understand the challenges
of green consumption and why they choose SC over green consumption. These attempts led to
the development of this study which specifically compares two widely applied terms in green
consumer behavioural research that is, Green Consumption and Sustainable Consumption and
their extended forms to explore their relative superiority in predicting consumers’ green
product purchases. These theoretical insights can provide viable ideas for marketing and
communication programmes that promote green consumption, ultimately promoting
environmental sustainability while increasing business profits.
With the report of Agenda 21, SC (SC) has been placed at the forefront as unsustainable Sustainable
production and consumption are the main deterrents for continued deterioration of the consumption
global environment.
SC has been given the top most priority nation goal to battle against ecological
deprivation by The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) held at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Past studies have reported that people’s
present ways and rate of using goods and service are not sustainable and pose a big
challenge for future generations (Tanner and Wölfing, 2003; Spaargaren, 2003; Jackson,
2005; Seyfang, 2006; Tukker et al., 2006; Wang et al., 2014). Refer Figure 1 in this
direction for better understanding of literature review basis keeping research
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RQ1. What factors influence SC over green consumption?

RQ2. How does the behaviour of sustainable consumption and green consumption
affect the perception of consumers differently?
It is apparent from the literature that consumers are getting conscious regarding
environment and accordingly showing the green orientation (Lal et al., 2017; Filho et al.,
2017; Schlegelmilch et al., 1996); the process how they choose between the green
consumption and sustainable consumption has been under-researched. As a result,
evolving a substantive strategy to motivate consumers to examine the consumption
pattern of consumers is an elusive goal. Hence, the cited research questions address
first factors influence sustainable consumptions over green consumptions due to the
challenges faced by consumers while buying green products. Second is the
classification of consumers’ behaviour on basis of their green and sustainable
consumptions. In light of consumption pattern consumers follow and ecological
problems society is facing, it is a research topic worthy to examine.

Figure 1.
Steps in selection
process of the articles
JIBR Literature review
The commencement of the twenty-first century is noticeable with an exponential
increase of consumer’s environmental consciousness owing to the alliance of number of
environmental problems like environmental pollution and global warming (Leonidou
et al., 2010; Svensson and Wagner, 2012). Past studies revealed the substantial increase
in environmental centric attitude among consumers and emphasised on the significance
of green consumer’s attitudes in predicting ecological behaviours (Prothero et al., 2010).
Most of these studies have been conducted in the developed countries such as France,
USA, Germany, Australia, Denmark and the UK, but very limited studies have been
done in the emerging nations (Diamantopoulos et al., 2003) which give an added
impetus towards this area of investigation.
According to past researches, green consumers are reported to hold more environmental
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conscious characteristics, by portraying more concern towards product selection, believing

in greater utility of their purchases, generally avoiding products that are likely to cause
significant damages and unnecessary wastages, believing that the recycled products are
superior to the ordinary ones in quality, positively expecting price differentiation towards
recycled products, the feeling of environmental contribution in the form of recycled products
purchasing, etc. (Elkinton, 1999; Bei and Simpson, 1995).

Identification of green consumer segments

Literature mainly concentrated on classification of green customer segmentation, customer
profiling, factors influencing green purchase decisions, etc. (Peattie, 2001). Past studies have
tried to recognise the diverse psychographic and demographic characteristics of green
consumers who are sensitive towards the environment and social realisation (Laroche et al.,
2001; Akehurst et al., 2012). Green consumers are keen to acquire environment friendly
goods (Okada and Mais, 2010) and respond towards core product attributes (Gupta and
Ogden, 2009; Pereira Luzio and Lemke, 2013). They are often described as “rational
individuals” (Harrison et al., 2005; Cherrier and Murray, 2007). Consumers who are aware of
environmental issues and interested in buying ecological products are called green
consumers (Soonthonsmai, 2007). Ottman (1992) reported that consumers acknowledge
green products only when they satisfy their primary need for quality, convenience,
affordability and performance and when they are aware of the working of a green product
that how it could solve their environmental problems. Krause (1993) reported that
consumers were becoming more concerned about their routine and its impact on the
environment; therefore, many of the consumers transformed as a green consumer and
commits to green purchasing. While undergoing green purchase intention behaviour
exploration, numerous studies have depicted a “gap” between consumers’ favourable
attitudes and actual purchasing practices (Vermeir and Verbeke, 2006, 2008; Tanner and
Wölfing, 2003). Hughner et al. (2007) in a study have found that whereas consumers
irrespective of showing a positive attitude towards organic food purchases, only a limited
amount of consumers actually purchases. It is thus evident from past research being
undertaken that there exist a consumers’ thinking and actual actions gap (Chen and Chai,
2010; Wheale and Hinton, 2007) which is referred to as “green attitude-behaviour gap”. It
shows that consumers positive attitude towards green purchases does not always lead to
buying behaviour and is essential to examine why environmental attitudes have a weaker
influence on consumer green purchase behaviour; that leads to the discrepancy between
consumer attitude and purchase behaviour. Previous research has not been capable of
recognising the consumer attitude towards the green purchase (Gupta and Ogden, 2009) as
no inclusive examination of environmentally responsible purchasing (Memery et al., 2005)
has been studied vastly. Thus, the authors felt the necessity of conducting this study on Sustainable
consumer behaviour towards the green consumers, and this motivated the authors to review consumption
the extant relevant literature on consumers’ green behaviour. An increased attention
towards environmental damages (depletion of resources, pollution, etc.) has raised an
increased level of concern and emphasis on sustainable products.
 Socio-demographic characteristics: Conventional researches on segregating green
consumers with non-green consumers seems to point towards education and age as
two of the most vital demographic elements predicting ecological behaviour (Buttel
and Taylor, 1992).

It is generally opined and believed that younger persons are comparatively more likely to
behave responsibly towards ecological issues compared to older generations. On the reverse
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side, education is also expected to associate positively with environmental concerns and
consumers positive attitude (Straughan and Roberts, 1999). Consumers possessing higher
educational levels are more conscious about environmental laws and regulations; hence, they
are more concerned about environmental quality and responsible behaviours (Diamantopoulos
et al., 2003). Income is also considered to be another important socioeconomic variable related
to environmental sensitivity (Scott and Willits, 1994; Stern et al., 1995a, 1995b).
 Psychographic measures: Research has found that higher levels of environmental
activism are strongly related to natural environment and values in a person’s life
(Steel, 1996). Green consumers tend to hold both pro-social and pro-environmental
principles particularly; enthusiastic environmentalists give importance towards
personal influence, wealth, authority and other aspects of philanthropy.
 Geographic measures: It is usually supposed that urban and rural people views
environmental problems differently and thus embrace diverse attitudes with respect
to the natural environment. Several studies have showed that pollution concerns are
more with urban consumers rather than rural residents (Tremblay and Dunlap, 1978).

Sustainable consumption vs green consumption

Considering the level of researches required to facilitate appropriate strategies for sustainable
living towards the betterment of the socio-economic position in the world economy, we need a
more balanced and global approach towards securing human welfare (Nkamnebe, 2011).
Generally, as a rule, the sustainability marketing concept has also given special focus
towards green marketing practices (Peattie, 2001; Iles, 2008; Rettie et al., 2012). Nevertheless,
the concepts of green product branding (Hartmann et al., 2005), green supply chain
(Srivastava, 2007), green brand equity (Chen, 2010), eco-labelling (Rex and Baumann, 2007),
environmental citizenship behaviour (Dobson, 2007), green buying behaviour (Chan, 2001;
Kim and Choi, 2005; D’Souza et al., 2007) have also been discussed equally with great efforts
which considers ethical consumerism at the forefront. According to UNEP (1995), for
example, SC is defined as “the use of services and related products that respond to basic
needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising the use of natural resources and
toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle so as not to
jeopardise the needs of future generations”. SC tries to satisfy the current generation
requirements without harming the ability of future generations (Leary et al., 2014) and covers
a holistic balance while protecting the futuristic needs (Robins and Roberts, 2006). Therefore,
it focusses on the economic activity and the social and environmental benefits giving the
primary focus on environmental concerns among individuals (Lee, 2014; Haron et al., 2005).
JIBR SC is an amalgamation of individuals, marketer and holistic levels of decision-making
strategies (Jones et al., 2013) with the aim of better quality of life with the minimum usage of
resources available and creation of better lifestyles (Hornibrook et al., 2013). Whereas, green
consumption is a connotation that has been generated as a substitute dialogue which is
enclosed of various types of green product trade, encompassing diverse activities through
buying moderately traded tea bags to trading or selling unprocessed organic animal protein
products. Researchers have been long attempting to understand the underlying factors and
motivations involved in green consumer decision-making by giving due acknowledgement
towards the importance of green consumption in the promotion of environmental
sustainability (Table III).
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Green and sustainable consumption in India

Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India has taken major 24 initiatives
related to climate change (2010) and to improve the current environmental issues as per
Figure 2. Also, in many states of India, plastic bags are banned to reduce the pollution and
ecological problems (Prakash and Pathak, 2017; Earth Policy Institute, 2013) and encourage
automobile users to use CNG (Mishra and Sharma, 2010). Similarly, owing to growing
environmental consciousness at large, firms are also placing increasingly greater emphasis
on environmental-friendly products and highlighting “eco”, “environmentally friendly”,
“green”, “earth friendly” and “sustainable” terms in their strategies. Also, they are attempting
to improve their competitive edge both by investing in green product development and by

Figure 2.
24 recent initiatives
related to climate
change (2010)
undertaking green-oriented marketing campaigns. These green initiatives are aimed at Sustainable
environmental protection and safety by increasing people’s environmental consciousness and consumption
encouraging them to adopt green purchasing behaviour. As it has been found that if an
individual is environmentally conscious, he/she may be expected to adopt green buying
behaviour (Sharma and Kesharwani, 2015). Hence, Mishra and Sharma (2010) highlighted the
case studies of Indian firms adopting the sustainable and green ways to gain the green
competitive edge like State Bank of India’s green IT project, Lead free paint from Nerolac,
Indian oil’s green agenda; Tata’s going green initiatives and Wipro Green IT project. It is
relevant to pinpoint that Indian corporates are getting conscious regarding environment and
accordingly schematising the consumption patterns of consumers, as there are studies
claiming that Indian consumers’ green buying intentions are influenced by their
environmental towards attitude (Kumar et al., 2017; Sharma and Sharma, 2013; Khare et al.,
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2013), social norm, green self-identify (Khare, 2015), drive for environmental responsibility
and protection (Kumar and Ghodeswar, 2015). Also, scholars affirmed that Indian consumers
are willing to pay premium price for the eco-labelled products (Prakash and Pathak, 2017;
Sally, 2013; Manaktola and Jauhari, 2007). On the contrary, the literature also reported the
studies where consumers do not prefer higher price of green product (Hsu et al., 2017; Sharma
and Kesherwani, 2015; Sharma and Sharma, 2013). According to Aschemann-Witzel and
Zielke (2017), only 30 per cent of the consumers showed their willingness to pay 0 to 105 per
cent more for the green products. But this willingness was dependent on particular consumer
segment and product category. Moreover, it has been found that Indians consumers are
sensitive towards prices of the products (Kumar and Kapoor, 2014; Mukherjee et al., 2012),
and they generally do not prefer to pay more for “green” attribute in a product
(Khoiruman and Haryanto, 2017; Nasir and Karakaya, 2014). Therefore, the present study
theoretically and interpretatively examines the challenges faced by the Indian consumers and
to categorise the consumer behaviour on the basis of the green and SC pattern.

To comprehend the phenomenon of green and sustainable consumers, the present study
investigates the consumers’ consumption pattern using interpretative phenomenological
approach (IPA). Smith (2013) articulated that IPA acknowledges the participants’ personal
lived experiences and involves double hermeneutic in which participants attempts to make
sense to their own personal and social world and also making sense of personal lived
experience of the participants through the lens of the researcher. Moreover, Giorgi and
Giorgi (2003) affirmed that phenomenological asserts with personal’s object or course of
events, but Smith’s IPA underpinned the role of researchers also in the process of making
sense of participants’ object or course of events.

Sampling and data collection

In total, 12 phenomenological “semi-structured interviews” (Smith, 1996) was conducted to
collect the data using purposive sampling as per the criteria of theoretical sampling
(Charmaz, 2006). Refer Table I for the profile of 12 respondents. The process of data
collection in theoretical sampling is influenced by evolving theory rather than pre-set
population (Draucker et al., 2007), and it is a crucial step in qualitative sampling with the
intentions to investigate assorted consumer profile to gain variant of insights and
experiences. Also, the consumers with post-graduation and/or above were interviewed to
recognise the green and sustainable perspective.
Consumers with high education were nominated, as several studies have verified that
higher educated consumers are more sensible and concern towards sustainable and
JIBR Respondent No. Gender Education Position

Viniti Female Pursuing PhD Academician

John Male Pursuing Masters in Economics Student
Devi Female Pursuing MD Doctor
Yashna Female Masters in Commerce Service Manager
Savita Female PhD Academician
Shiva Male PhD Academician
Bindiya Female MBA Housewife
Vishnu Male BTech/MBA IT Manager
Vishi Male MBA Retail Manager
Pranav Male MTech Business
Table I. Anu Female Master in Mass Communication Journalist
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Respondents’ profile Nivita Female MBA Consultant

environmental issues because relatively they understand the environmental change and
think accordingly (Straughan and Roberts, 1999; Zimmer et al., 1994). Diverse set of sample
in terms of age, gender, marital status and occupation (Table I) was nominated for studying
multicity of experience regarding green and sustainable orientation among consumers.
Hence, the selection of sample was based on participant’s willingness to participate in the
study, education level (i.e. post-graduation and/or above) and general awareness regarding
environment and sustainability. In-depth interviews lasted for 30-40 min approximately and
were recorded personally as well as telephonically. Correspondingly, the communication
between the researcher and participants existed to countenance and exhort the emergence of
ideas from the participants (Mills et al., 2006; Charmaz, 1995).
Also to adhere to our research objective, we simply asked the participants regarding
their opinions and consumption patterns. The questions were sequenced initially to gain the
general insight regarding their regular consumption pattern then progressed towards the
specific. Then disguisedly they were asked about their green and sustainable efficacies and
practices followed by them. Sumptuously, they shared their experiences, spirits and
sentiments towards green and SC pattern and to sum up the conversation, participants were
discussed regarding the significance of environmental consumption and there factors.
Afterwards, standardised qualitative procedures were followed until the elicited
illustrations were categorised. Finally, the recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim.

Data analysis
The recorded transcripts have been investigated and analysed according to the set of rules
and procedures with respect to IPA, as IPA approach articulates individuals’ lived
experiences (Chapman and Smith, 2002) and involves researchers’ assertiveness regarding
the analyses of participants lived experiences (Brocki and Wearden, 2006; Smith, 2004). Also,
IPA is an evocative and inductive approach which involves continuous recapitulation of data
from initial stage. The study applied the guidelines of Smith and colleagues (Smith, 2007;
Smith, 1999a, 1999b) for iteration of the verbatim transcripts. In first phase, discretely each
transcript was analysed with comprehensive reading, and rereading was done to familiarise
the contents. Familiarised contents were marked on left side of the transcripts to extract the
context that seems interesting to the researchers and acknowledges the pervious literature. In
second phase, emergent themes are being transformed using the extracted contents to
capture the essence of ideas and comments of participants. Third phase involved clustering
of themes from emergent themes which were convergent. Forth phase formulates the super-
ordinate themes from sub-ordinate themes to study the commonalities. Finally, we created Sustainable
the master themes by re-examining the convergence and divergence in all the transcripts. consumption
Hence, this rigour case-to-case study improved the robustness of the data, as the present
study included the triangulation method of collecting the data via in-depth interviews and
literature, direct quotes of participants and conceptual understanding through transcripts to
offer credence to researcher’s analytics for interpretation and findings.

Research findings
Pseudonyms used to represent the participants of the study. The findings investigate
research questions regarding the phenomena of sustainable and green consumptions
followed by the consumers. Based on the consumers’ lived experiences, two major themes
were identified. First theme discusses the research question regarding the consumers’
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preference of SC over green consumptions, and to address this issue, we have discussed the
challenges of green consumption. Second, while addressing the next research question
regarding how differently green and SC affect the behaviour of the consumers, we generated
different types of green and sustainable consumers on the basis of their behaviour.
The rigour case-to-case study was done to improve the robustness of the study. Also,
triangulation method was used to collect the data to offer credence to our findings and
analysis via in-depth interviews, literature, direct quotes of participants and conceptual
understanding using transcripts. The analysis of collected qualitative data showed the scant
purchase experiences of consumers and process of evaluation of their sustainable and green
consumptions espouse by them. Initially, the concept of morality was broached when
respondents were asked regarding the green and sustainable practices followed by them.
Accordingly, participants recounted the concept of morality with their environmental
purchase decisions. Furthermore, participants used substitute terms like “ethical duty”,
“right conduct”, “right things to do” and “responsibility” to showcase their moral obligations
towards the environment. Participants were asked “Do they consider green while buying a
product?”. “If yes then please elaborate your considerations and if no then please explain the
reasons”. While deliberating their considerations, they broached the problems they
encounter in green and SC, if any existed.

“Being green is not easy”: challenges of green consumptions

Many participants recounted the problems manifested by them while buying green products
like high prices of green products, lack of awareness and non-availability of green
products. Table II exhibits the challenges confronted by the participants while buying green
products. John recited the challenges he faces while buying green products. He discussed
regarding lack of green information from the marketers’ end. Similarly, Yashna also
emphasised on the importance of advertisements to make consumers aware regarding green
products. She mentioned that her shopping depends on the brand recognition through
advertisements. In addition, participants mentioned regarding the disinformation of green
products as companies’ campaign green products without having any environmental-
friendly element in the products. It infers that just saying green is not enough for consumers
to influence the green buying behaviour. Moreover, when it comes to choose between green
products the choice is very limited. As per many participants, they do not find much option
in green segments and complained regarding lack of green products’ accessibility and
availability. Finally, participants also narrated that high prices of green products is a
concern for them, as they have budget to manage. Moreover, the higher prices of green
products do not justify the authenticity of the product as environmental friendly.
consumers faced Theoretical perspective Participants’ perspective

“Do not get green It has been found that Viniti stated: when I visit a mall or any departmental
signal ” : lack of green information store, I don’t find any green product. In fact . . . I don’t get
Truncated green discourages consumers to to know what a green product is. We are not aware about
information be green as it does not it. There is no TV or radio advertisement regarding any
provided by provide credence to green green product available in the market. In mall also, there
marketers/ products (Biswas and is no separate shelf display to inform us regarding green
retailers Roy, 2015; Prakash, 2002) products. Generally, I would like to procure products
which are green as it help in sustainability and I am
aware about its advantages. But I am unaware about the
green products available in the market due to lack of
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advertisements. Also, government is coming up with so

many initiatives but nowhere guide us regarding green
John stated: you know we need a signal sometimes like
you know if a product signals to me like it has a green
orientation, obviously I would pick it up over other
alternatives . . . It has to be doing with adequacy of a
signal. So if I will know it green I will definitely purchase
Yashna mentioned: honestly what I feel as a consumer
first of all when I go for a shopping it’s the ads and all
that affects me at the very first instance and I get to
know about the product. After that it’s the price. Frankly
it the ads that play a vital role in green buying behaviour.
Then the price. Plus I feel it has to be available in front of
your eyes . . . I don’t think when I go to malls or
anywhere there is some specific section saying or
dedicated to green products or something kid of things. I
never saw that thing. May be this is the reason that I skip
buying green products
“Green is not Bradford (2007) Bindiya stated: when I see a green product like organic
always green ” : conceptualised the term products I feel this is a fake branded product. See my
Green washing green washing that husband’s friend is into this organic farming . . . he told
deceive the consumers him that we just use large size of the seed and polish it
regarding green or . . . nothing is organic . . . no difference is there . . . we use
environmental practices same technique, same fertilizer for the organic product
followed by companies for . . . so now it is in my mind set. So I feel why to buy it.
their own benefit. This Plus these are so expensive . . . prices are high as
kind of deception compare to the trust in the green products.
activities leads to Nivita: I don’t trust environmental-friendly things in
scepticism among green products. Companies lie to us. Let me tell you one
consumers (Chen and instance last year I bought a Samsung 5 star ac . . . But
Chang, 2013; Parguel that performs well. Cooling function is very bad. I bought
et al., 2011) that AC because it mentioned 5 stars that is electric
efficiency but it was useless. As per me, companies don’t
Table II. have green innovative technology. Green is just a
Challenges of green namesake
consumption (continued)
Challenges consumption
consumers faced Theoretical perspective Participants’ perspective

“Jo dikhta hai vo Many scholars examined Anu discussed: generally, we don’t have many choices in
bikta hai” The the inverse relationship green. According to me, like if we go to any mall or
products we see between the lack of anywhere, there nowhere particularly we see green
that only get availability of green products means we don’t have green options . . . we can’t
sell): Non- products and green go as per our choice . . . then we have to choose the
availability of buying behaviour (Young options which are available and attract us on the display
green products et al., 2010; De Pelsmacker shelves. If I can identify or can see products, which are
et al., 2005; Pedersen, green in the market, I would like to buy those green
2000) products for use.
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Shiva: that I like to buy green products but in the case of

non-availability I have to switch on to another product to
fulfil my needs . . . I shouldn’t wait for the product later
or will buy . . . this is a cumbersome situation you can
say . . . it is both ways I as a consumer suffers. Like if
only 4-5 green pieces are coming or there are some
brands you know like Himalaya is there or Dabur is also
there somehow launches green product. In fact, I am not
sure if these are green products or not. So there is
confusion regarding the green products we have and
availability is an issue in green products
“Value for Few studies do reveal that Vishi: green products are expensive like organic products
Money” - High consumers are willing to are expensive . . . as per my economic cost I don’t buy
Prices of Green pay premium for eco- green products like organic pulses . . . these are
Products labelled products (Van expensive . . . and so green products are.
Ravenswaay and Blend, Vishnu: Value for money . . . I buy a product on basis of
1999; Loureiro et al., 2002) value for money. I find green products expensive as
the evidence largely compare to other products. So if other products are
seems to indicate fulfilling my needs, I prefer to buy other product over
otherwise as consumers high rated green products.
do not prefer higher price Savita: see we have consider our pockets too. Then we
of green product (Sharma have seen green products are overpriced and if the
and Sharma, 2013; Gupta product is out my budget I can avoid it. I have to manage
and Ogden, 2009) my budget Table II.

Types of consumer behaviour

Based on the experiences shared by the respondents, the study segmented the different
types of consumer behaviour on the basis of sustainable and green consumption patterns.
To illustrate the distant segment, cases have been drawn from the data to showcase the
actual behaviour and holistic standpoints of the consumers the study proposed the three
extreme categories of consumer’s namely holistic conservationist, fragile conservationist
and sustainable conservationist.

Holistic conservationist: consumers with high sustainable and green

Holistic conservationists are those consumers who claim to have high concern for the
environment and perform both sustainable and green practices. One of the respondents,
Pranav exhibits the same comportment. He is 35 years old businessman lives in Delhi and
shared his routine practices and buying behaviour. He loves dogs and likes to spent time
JIBR with NGOs working for dogs’ welfares. He likes listening music and live band performances.
While discussing regarding his concern for environment, he stated that:
We are witnessing lots of ecological changes like increasing in pollution level and extinction of
sparrows in Delhi. Moreover, smog is also a concern [. . .] I believe we should do our part. In my
office I make sure to change all lights with Led bulbs and tube lights and switch them off when
they are not in use. My office is small (laughs) but I still like to do my part as I printed the poster
in washrooms and near water cooler regarding save water [. . .] and use ACs in energy mode. I
follow the same practices at my home too.
Pranav also discussed his green buying behaviour and how he thinks before buying any
product. He mentioned that:
While buying any electronic product for my office I consider it efficiency. For example I recently
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bought an air conditioner with five star marketing. Also when I bought a car I also installed CNG
kit in it. Initial costs of both products were high but at later stage both will have good payback
[. . .] but I have seen many people does not follow this, they try to save their money. I understand
the advantages of environmental friendly products and when someone asks me I suggest them to
buy eco-friendly products.

Pranav revealed that at micro level also, consumers can positively contribute towards the
environment. He showed his concern for the environment and animals. He also deliberated
about his day-to-day sustainable activities by efficiently using the electricity and automobile
like by switching off the lights, use of save mode while using the air conditions, using CNG
vehicles and alerting others to save water in his office. Moreover, he revealed that he
considers green for buying and supports the environment not only because of economic
benefits but also for grander cause, i.e. to save the environment. It is quite possible that
consumers with self-concern for environment and awareness regarding environment
deterioration exhibit holistic conservationists behaviour by performing sustainable
activities and behaving green by buying green products.

Fragile conservationist: consumers with low sustainable and green behaviour

Fragile conservationists are those consumers who do not perform green and sustainable
activities. One the respondents, Bindiya reported the same behaviour. She is currently a
housewife and obtained a master’s degree in business administration. Prior to this, she was
freelancer in brand consultancy. She is in her late 40s and left the job to give some time to
her family and social life. While discussing with her regarding her consumption choices, she
highlighted regarding her busy lifestyle, other day-to-day engagements and green washing
which restrict her to be environmentalist. She stated that:
See, it’s not that I am anti green but where is green. We are so busy in our lives, family, office [. . .]
we don’t get time to be green. There is no information regarding green also [. . .] no
advertisements, no green campaign and no special initiatives by our government. How one can be
Interviewer: What about your self-concern?:
I am concerned for environment. But when we go for shopping our busy lifestyle only allows me
to do my routine purchase [. . .] you know the product I am buying from long time and we don’t
get time to do research on number of green products present or not. Also, as I have told you
regarding fake green products like organic products available. How to trust green? When we are
not sure. In this busy lifestyle we don’t get time to be green or sustainable (laughs). Do we?
Design/methodology/ Nature of
References Country approach research Findings consumption
Pereira Luzio Portugal Semi-structured in- Exploratory Green consumers represent an
and Lemke depth interviews artificial segment and suggest that
(2013) mainstreaming green products is a
more positive alternative than green
Barbarossa Italy cognitive mapping Qualitative Higher price and scarce availability
and Pastore technique (Decision study of green products are the main
(2015) Explorer software) and barriers to green purchasing
Freeman’ structural
Indices (UCINET
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Carrete et al. Mexico ethnographic approach, Qualitative Three dominant themes related to
(2012) in-depth interviews and study uncertainty in the adoption of
observational data environmentally-friendly
behaviours: consumer
confusion, trust and credibility and
Lee (2008) Hong Survey/multiple Quantitative Social influence was the top
Kong regression analysis predictor of adolescents’ green
purchasing behaviour, followed by
environmental concern, concern for
self-image in environmental
protection, and perceived
environmental responsibility
Connolly and Europe Phenomenological Qualitative Consumers themselves view
Prothero interviews environmental problems from a
(2003) supply and not a demand
perspective focussing on issues such
as recycling and waste and not
consumption itself. Second,
consumers have green opinions
about very diverse issues and these
are directly related to the
individuals’ lifestyles and finally,
“material green” consumers are
buying into a particular image in
their consumption practices
Gilg et al. Devon Survey/chi-square Quantitative Specific demographic groups, with
(2005) particular behavioural qualities and
attitudes, are engaging in a varied
way in sustainability
Jones et al. UK Review/survey Quantitative Definitions of, and engagement with,
(2011) SC is driven as much by commercial
imperatives as by commitments to
Young et al. UK In-depth interviews Qualitative Green consumers can use their
(2010) buying power to make a difference,
but at a high cost in terms of effort
and time, which is a significant
Table III.
Source: Authors compilation Summary of studies
JIBR Summary
Bindiya narrated the practical problems consumer faces in green consumption and SC. She
highlighted the lack of government’s and marketers’ green initiatives which limited her
green consumption. Also, she revealed her lack of sustainable and green initiatives due to
her family and work commitment. It is presumable that because of her hectic schedule, she
left her consultancy work and became a housewife. Through her afore quotes, it is implied
that consumers can avoid being green or sustainable when they have prior commitment and
no motivation towards the environment.

Sustainable conservationist: consumers with high sustainable and low green

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Sustainable conservationists are that consumer who exhibits the more sustainable
behaviour over buying green products for the betterment of the environment. Devi is one of
the respondents who shown more of the sustainable practices in her day-to-day activities
rather than buying eco-friendly products for the environmental improvement. She is in her
early 40s and a doctor by profession. Also, she is pursuing her MD and has very hectic
schedule. She conversed regarding the activities followed by her and what restrain her green
buying behaviour:
Ahem [. . .] green never came into my mind. Never thought whether LED is better or a normal
product is better. Whatever is available is available. In electronic also we do not have something
like green. Vehicle I drive the diesel one (laugh) for better mileage. It’s all about value for money.
People use CNG because it is economical for short distances and not for its environmental

As far as environmental friendly things are there I switch off all the lights. I don’t use plastics. I
don’t use plastic utensils at home at all. Absolutely no plastic. Only steel. I don’t buy melamine
anymore. Try to reuse plastic in whatever way I can. I don’t throw it away easily. Yeah that’s it.

Devi highlighted the problem of availability while buying a green product. Moreover, she
never had an urge to buy green and emphasised on value for money. It is quite possible
being sustainable is more convenient rather being green because as per her, she never
researched about green products, as she has a very hectic schedule which does not allow her
to always buy eco-friendly products. Sustainability is the habit and buying green products
is the choice we have to make. Her statement also infers that performing sustainable
activities does not involve monetary efforts which make it more opportune to perform.

Conservationism as moral artefacts

Many participants broached the concept of morality when they were recounting their
sustainable and green consumption. They revealed that it is their moral responsibility to
save the environment. The consumers showed their concern towards the ecological changes
and mentioned their ethical duties towards the improvement of the environment. The
following statements show the relationship between morality and conservationism:
You know we are responsible for our environment [. . .] so we should purchase green products like
other products use chemicals that harm the environment and our health adversely. It is our moral
duty to save the environment. (Viniti)
We are destroying our earth that’s why if we collectively and all will make effort then only we can Sustainable
make some correction for whatever out ancestors have done. So ethically should be green and
sustainable. (Vishi)

I think being a part of this living world if I am having problem with something it’s my duty to
take step to solve the problem. We keep complaining about the pollution and all those things. So it
my duty to keep my vehicle in good conditions if I buy those products which are less polluting
like if I am buying led which is less energy consuming so I am little contributing in solving this
problem. (Yashna)

When I buy something then I introspect about it sometimes. Whether it was good buying or not.
Recently I bought this solar lamp and I was happy that I contributed something towards the
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environment. I felt morally happy. (John)

See if government campaign regarding don’t buy plastic and still we are buying it [. . .] its out
mistake. It’s our moral duty to take care of environment. (Savita)

To me morality motivates to buy green products or preserve the environment through my actions.

This is on moral ground people uses green fuel instead of petrol or diesel [. . .]. There are no forced
ads or anything else forcing them to buy products on higher side or less side. (Vishnu)

It is our moral responsibility to save the environment and on the front of sustainable development
we can save the environment today then only we can live better future [. . .] (Pranav)

Owing to present ecological changes and its hazardous effects on the environment and
human’s health, consumers are becoming conscious regarding their consumption patterns
(Sharma and Sharma, 2013; Akehurst et al., 2012). Indeed, consumers’ purchase decision
succinctly includes green and sustainable lifestyles (Young et al., 2010; Barr and Gilg, 2006;
Gilg et al., 2005). However, the outset of consumption involves myriad factors and buying
decisions are based on consumers’ understanding of products, information regarding the
product, products’ price, availability, alternative products and also the social norms prevails
within the society (Devinney et al., 2006). Hence, the rationale of present study is to highlight
and outline two key issues associated with SC over green consumers and categorising the
consumption patterns on the basis of consumers’ behaviour. The interpretative
phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to examine the different lived behavioural know-
how of consumers and report the environmental practises followed by the consumers. The
rigours analysis of the data reveals the significance of environmental agenda among
consumers and provides the evidence of consumers’ engagement in sustainable and green
Initially, consumers discussed their concern for the environmental issues and their
transcend behaviour towards the environment. Gilg et al. (2005) illustrated that
environmental behaviour is based on the purchase decision, habits and recycling behaviour
of consumers. The present study profiled the consumers on the basis of their lived
experiences and how do they manage their green and SC. Respondents explained regarding
their morality which drives them to be conservationist. An analysis of consumers’
sustainable lifestyles and certain green buying experiences assisted us in identifying and
JIBR categorising the behaviour of consumers. While managing their work and personal lives,
consumers ruminate regarding their consumption patterns in a way of holistic
conservationists in which they perform both green and sustainable course of action, and this
quest is triggered by their concern for the environment. Literature also countersign the
studies where environmental conscious of consumers direct the green and sustainable
behaviour (Evans, 2011; Young et al., 2010; Barr and Gilg, 2006; Gilg et al., 2005).
However, previous studies have also found out that intentions are not always translated
into actual behaviour (Carrington et al., 2014; Carrington et al., 2010; Boulstridge and
Carrigan, 2000). There are inconsistencies in green purchasing intentions and behaviour
because of lack of availability of information on performance of the green/eco-friendly
products (Young et al., 2010), burdensome cognitive effort in investigating about green
products. Moreover, consumers do not prefer high prices of environmental-friendly products
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(Sharma and Sharma, 2013; Gupta and Ogden, 2009). Likewise, Chen and Chang (2013)
reported that green washing limits green purchasing intentions among consumers. These
potential difficulties restrain consumers to be green. Similarly, this study exemplified actual
challenges consumers face while buying green products, and major reasons as per our study
are demonstrated in Figure 3. Moreover, the present study classified the behaviour where
consumers shows no concern towards sustainable and green consumption due to their busy
lifestyles, ignorance towards environmental responsibility and no urge to go green as a
fragile conservationist.

Conclusions and implications

With the outset of environmental concern and moral responsibility, the study highlights the
actual experiences of consumers while acting sustainable and green, if at all. It may be
purported that marketers should understand the challenges faced by green consumers to
enhance the green buying behaviour, as they intend to buy green products, but the
difficulties like lack of information, availability, high process and green washing of eco-
friendly products restrain them to be green. Second, marketers and organisations in India
are witnessing sustainability dilemmas and burden in preserving natural resources (Jayanti
et al., 2014). Hence, they should work on the greener production and trigger the
environmental concern. Third, companies need to make strategies to enhance environmental
efficaciousness and empathic concern among consumers because present study found that
consumers are getting sustainable in their actions and thinking about environmental issues.
Many respondents revealed that their concern for the nature is for grander benefits like it is
their moral responsibility and obligation to save the environment for others top rather than
only thinking about themselves. It affirms that morality plays a vital role in heightening the
environmental awareness (Crane, 2000) and kindles greener actions.
Although various SMEs are taking green initiatives, the results at the same time also
reveal that management of the SMEs need to be more aware of activities such as using
ecological ingredients or raw material that can be recycled so that firms can reduce energy

Figure 3.
Challenges of green
cost, improve brand recognition and popularity and contribute to greening the processes Sustainable
more effectively. consumption
As well-known previously, all the three antecedents (social marketing, relationship
marketing and marketing orientation) are strong predictors of green market orientation.
Further, it is also suggested that SMEs and companies involved in manufacturing green
products by giving due focus on different antecedents and core elements of green market
orientation can enhance their level of green market orientation and which ultimately will
have strong influence on business performance. Further, it is revealed from the study
findings that for strong predicting power for “I don’t buy LED bulbs but I switch off the lights:
Green Consumption vs SC”, societal people should be well educated in adoption of
sustainable and green practices both hand in hand as only depending on sustainable aspect
will not only solve the today’s environmental problems. It is hoped that the present paper
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has put forward a case of classifying consumers on the basis of their sustainable and green
actions. With the help of the results revealed in the study, the marketers can achieve
environmental consciousness of consumers to entice new markets, customers and also to
retain the existing green consumers by focussing on their behaviour and reducing the
problems faced by the consumers.

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Corresponding authors
Nitika Sharma can be contacted at: nitikasharma28@gmail.com, Raiswa Saha can be contacted at:
raiswasaha5@gmail.com and Rudra Rameshwar can be contacted at: rudrarameshwar@gmail.com
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