Consumers crave CO2 offsetting

Newswise — Whether it’s recycled aluminum at Apple’s MacBook Air or compensation payments from Microsoft for emissions over the life of an Xbox, climate-friendly products are becoming more and more popular. But do consumers also pay attention to how a neutral climate balance is created? Companies use two ways to accomplish this goal: reducing emissions directly or compensating them afterward. “Both approaches can make a product climate-neutral and have a positive impact on the environment, while compensatory measures are being discussed more and more critically in the public. To this end, the consumers in our study were only willing to spend more on the respective product if emissions were reduced,” says Prof. Christian Troester, Ph.D.. The reasons for this behavior are not entirely clear. “Consumers might show greater appreciation for companies that actively protect the environment by developing innovative processes,” says Troester.

There is one exception: If the emissions cannot be influenced by the company, for example, if they already arise during extraction of raw materials, compensation and reduction are perceived as equivalent. “The willingness to spend more money on a climate-friendly product tends to be higher the more environmentally conscious consumers are,” says Dr. Nils Roemer (Universität Hamburg).

Recommendation to companies: Communicate green actions transparently

Studies show1: Consumers are increasingly aware of the social and environmental consequences of their purchasing decisions, and many companies are therefore already taking action and acting more ecologically. However, not all of them communicate these measures for fear of being accused of “greenwashing” – that is, of whitewashing their own activities.

Clear communication about whether and how emissions are reduced is particularly important for companies, according to the study’s results. “This allows companies that actively reduce emissions to differentiate themselves from competitors who merely compensate,” says Prof. Troester. A clear breakdown of controllable and non-controllable emission components could also be important for this matter. In addition, it can be more expensive for a company to invest in innovative processes that reduce CO2 emissions. However, the results of the study suggest that these investments may be worthwhile, as consumers are willing to pay for them.

Additional information:
The results of the study are based on an online survey with around 200 participants and an experiment with around 80 participants.

CDP (2019). Top FMCGs in race to keep up with conscious consumers.   
Nielsen (2018). Global consumers seek companies that care about environmental issues.
Golob, U., & Kronegger, L. (2019). Environmental consciousness of European consumers: A segmentation-based study. Journal of Cleaner Production, 221, 1–9

Publication: N. Roemer, G.C. Souza, C. Troest and G. Voigt: Offset or reduce: How should firms implement carbon footprint reduction initiatives? Production and Operations Management 

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