Green attitudes and consumer behaviour should correlate in order to achieve environmental objectives. Yet an attitude-behaviour gap exists, and there are many reasons why green attitudes are not proportionately translated into actual behaviour. This paper aims to describe the foundations of green attitudes of Czech consumers – their trust in solutions of companies, their belief in global warming and their willingness to join pro-environmental initiatives. Czech consumers were segmented by their gender, age and education. Based on a literature review and the results of this research, managerial implications were suggested in order to reduce this attitude-behaviour gap and help companies to communicate their green strategy more effectively. These findings were framed by the previous research papers by the authors (Jaderná et al.) and should give an indication how to understand Czech consumers better.
One of the first pro-environmental movements emerged between 1960 and 1970, when pollution and energy conservation were among the most discussed topics (Straughan and Roberts 1999). Since then, the topic of environmental protection and environmental concern have become widely reported in the media. In the 1980s, growing evidence of environmental problems, including the depletion of the ozone layer, led to increased pressure group activity. In 1987, The Brundtland Report concluded that „economic growth had a role to play in improving the standards in the less industrialised world“ (Charter and Polonsky 2017, p. 15). The result was increased public environmental awareness up to the new millenium. For instance, the general concern about global warming, dependence on fossil fuels, overpopulation or deforestation rose between the years 2005 and 2009 among U.S. adults (Ottman 2011). In the Czech Republic, however, interest in the topic in the same period was minimal. Attention has only increased more recently. Nowadays, we as consumers are used to listening or reading news regarding environmental issues or share such news via social media worldwide.
Can we argue that being „green“ is somehow trendy? This research question was investigated by Griskevicius, Tybur and Van den Bergh (2010) in their research paper Going Green to Be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation. The findings were noteworthy – when status motivators are used, consumers tend to choose and buy green products more often instead of non-green, though more efficient or even cheaper, conventional products. They also found that another important criterion is whether the consumer buys the product alone or in public. In public, the demand for green products is much higher compared to buying in private. As Follows and Jobber (2000) found, we as consumers pretend to act in favour of environmental protection and to demonstrate our pro-environmental concern, but this attitude is not evenly translated into our actual behaviour.
Generally, green consumption is rising as well as the offer of green products. As reported by Roberts (1996), Ottman highlighted the rise of green innovative products and green developments in the U.S. from a 0.5% to 13.4% share in the total number of innovative products and developments in 1994. It is possible to say, that such a trend could continue as long as companies have motivations or incentives to implement new green strategies or develop green products, and consumers are willing to buy these products. The Theory of Consumption Values by Sheth, Newman and Gross (1991) is based on findings about values connected with consumption. According to the authors, it is important that these values (functional, emotional, epistemic, social and conditional) are inter-independent and influence our buying behaviour differently for every unit of consumption. The same finding is successfully applicable to green products, as examined by Gonçalves, Lourenço and Silva (2016). Nevertheless, the process of segmenting does not have to be based on values only.
Previous attempts at green consumer segmentation were inconsistent both because of criteria used for the segmentation and because of the resulting relations between variables (Jaderná et al. 2019). Peattie (2010) pointed out that the vast majority of green consumer research is based on attitude, not the actual behaviour. This „attitude-behaviour gap“ is therefore in need of further research and deeper understanding because research based on attitudes rather than actual behaviour may be well biased in favour of environmental concern. Besides environmental concern, which can be defined as a protective stance regarding our environment, another factor influencing our green consumer behaviour is perceived consumer effectiveness (Ellen et al. 1991). The environmental impact of our consumption is measured differently by each consumer, and some of them think they can really help nature by changing their buying behaviour.
Green scepticism may play a huge role in the attitude-behaviour gap. „Eco-friendly“ and similar descriptions might be found on many products, but without any genuine meaning and legal support (Newton and Cantarello 2014). Such greenwashing may cause consumers to lose both their interest and trust in green solutions of companies. Many non-governmental organisations tried to search for these greenwashing practices and lower the total number of greenwashing activities that could influence consumers to buy inauthentic green products (Lyon and Maxwell 2011). Examples range from BP (formerly British Petroleum) and their rebranding campaign Beyond Petroleum – from crude oil to sustainable energy sources (Ibid.) – through to Ford and their Reinvent the Automobile campaign in the time, when Hummer was still manufactured (Ottman 2011), to, last but not least, the green communication of Volkswagen during Dieselgate.
We witnessed a wave of environmental concern raised by the currently youngest generation, Generation Z, and their Fridays For Future movement. Considering global warming, green solutions of companies and different forms of activism, Greta Thunberg achieved media attention worldwide. Yet the role of green consumer segmentation according to demographic variables is still controversial. Do Paco and Raposo (2009) highlighted this finding in their research review. The focus of our research is to offer a broader examination of Czech green consumers in this context and help companies to shape their green communication and strategy to fit today’s world.
The segment of Czech green consumers
In the first paper, „Selected aspects of green behaviour of Czech consumers“ (Jaderná et al. 2018), the focus was on recycling, packaging and consumption of water and energy. Czech consumers put effort into recycling both plastic and paper. Higher education was connected with preference for sustainable packaging. It was confirmed that women tend to consume energy and water in a less wasteful manner. Generally, Czech consumers could be defined as conventional, saving energy and water mostly because of money. In terms of generation, research pointed out a dissatisfaction of Generation Z with the current state of environment. Yet the unwillingness to pay more for green products and mistrust towards the green activities of companies (green scepticism) was present amongst these young people.
In the previous paper of this series, „The interest of different generations of Czech consumers in certified products and environmental organisations“ (Jaderná et al. 2019), knowledge of both environmentally friendly products and organisations was studied as well as the buying activity of such products. It was mostly Generation Y who was influenced by environmental certifications, and respondents from this generation tend to make their buying-decisions according to such logos. The dissatisfaction of Generation Z with the current condition of the environment did not significantly influence its buying behaviour of pro-environmental certified products nor the knowledge of such organisations. Higher education was connected with better knowledge of such environmentally friendly products. In the case of women with higher education, buying behaviour was significantly influenced towards consumption of „bio“ products (note ). The reason for the attitude-behaviour gap (knowledge-behaviour) was not clarified in the paper.
In this paper, the authors would like to inspect the trust of consumers in green solutions of companies, their belief in global warming and willingness to join pro-environmental activities. The aim of this particular research to discover the degree of such trust, belief and willingness of Czech consumers. Moreover, the authors would like to jointly sum up the knowledge, causalities and relations which can be examined based on the data provided by the original research, thus providing a better understanding of Czech green consumers.
An online survey was conducted in June 2018. The application Trendaro was used, operated by the professional survey company Behavio Labs, s. r. o. A total of 1,000 respondents were chosen as a representative sample of the Czech online population. The proportion of gender and other sociodemographic characteristics is the same for the representative sample and for the whole Czech online population. Besides gender, the other characteristics were age, education and the size of respondents’ hometown.
Three questions were examined and hypotheses defined according to previous findings and literature review. First question examined the trust in green solutions of companies with asnwers on a scale ranging from 1 to 7, t-test was used in order to evaluate answers according to gender and ANOVA test was used to evaluate answers according to education and generation. Hypothesis (H1): Women tend to trust the effort of companies to apply green solutions more often than men. Hypothesis (H2): People with lower education level tend to trust the effort of companies to apply green solutions less often than people with higher education level. Second question examined the belief in global warming. Chi-squared test was used to evaluate the respective answers. Hypothesis (H3): Women are more likely to think global warming is a fact than men. Hypothesis (H4): Younger generations (people born after year 1976) tend to believe in global warming more often compared to the older generations (people born before year 1976). The last question examined the willingness of consumers to join pro-environmental activities. In order to evaluate the answers, t-test was used for evaluation of answers according to gender and ANOVA test for evaluation of asnwers according to education and generation. Hypothesis (H5): Women tend to join higher number of pro-environmental activities than man (on average). Hypothesis (H6): Respondents with university degree tend to join the highest number of pro-environmental activities on average. Hypothesis (H7): Respondents who trust the effort of companies to apply green solutions tend to join the highest number of pro-environmental activities on average.
Attitude-Behaviour gap within environmental action
Researchers were interested in three specific questions which were included in the questionnaire, followed by examination of possible correlations based on the findings. The three questions were: 1) trust in green solutions of companies? (generally, without a specific company mentioned), 2) belief in global warming and 3) activities to help the environment during the year that preceded the questionnaire. The aim of the paper was to uncover possible differences between the answers of respondents regarding their gender, educational level (basic, high school without/with graduation, university degree) and age – generation specifications according to Flodrová and Šilerová (2011), see Table 1.
Table 1: Generation specifications
Source: Authors, inspired by Flodrová and Šilerová (2011)
Firstly, trust in green solutions of companies was examined. Respondents could answer on a scale ranging from 1 to 7: 1 stood for „marketing intentions only“, and 7 stood for „sincere effort“. The results are shown on Graph 1 and the overall average of respondents was 3.79.
Considering gender, there is a significant difference between men and women (the p-value of the corresponding t-test is 0.029). The results are summarised in Table 2. Women are more likely to trust the effort of companies to apply green solutions with a mean of 3.9 in comparison with men with a mean of 3.68. Therefore, we can claim that H1 has been verified.
Table 2: Influence of gender on trust in green solutions
Considering the education level, there is a significant difference amongst respondents according to their education (the p-value of the corresponding ANOVA test is 0.014). The results are summarised in Table 3. Respondents with a university degree tend to trust companies the most with an average of 4.07. Based on the averages, it can be stated that the lower the education level is, the lower the average trust in green solutions on the considered scale. Therefore, we can claim that H2 has been verified.
Table 3: Influence of education level on trust in green solutions
The authors were also interested in the difference between Czech generations. However, in this case, there was no significant difference found between defined age groups with a significance level α = 0.05 (because the p-value of the corresponding ANOVA test was 0.96).
Secondly, the authors focused on the respondents’ opinion on global warming. A significant difference was found between the opinion of men and women (the p-value of the corresponding chi-squared test was 2.9×10-6). The results are summarised in Table 4. Interestingly, 18% of men in comparison to only 8% of women consider global warming to be mere fiction, whereas 73% of women in comparison with 69% of men believe global warming to be a fact. Therefore, we can claim that H3 has been verified.
Table 4: Influence of gender on opinion on global warming
From the point of view of generations, there is a significant difference (the p-value of the corresponding chi-squared is 0.042). The results can be found in Table 5. Younger respondents (born between 1964-2000) tend to believe more in global warming compared with older ones (1928-1975).. Generation Y (1976-1995) was the peak with 76% of respondents believing in global warming compared with the Silent Generation (1928-1949) with only 61%.The opposite is true when we consider respondents who think that global warming is only a fiction – Generation Y (1976-1995) as an age group with the lowest percentage (11%) of respondents who consider global warming a fiction.
Table 5: Influence of age on the opinion on global warming
Based on the results, we can claim that H4 has been verified, because Generation Y (76%) and Generation Z (75%) are the two generations with the highest percentages of respondents believieng in global warming.
From the point of view of education level, it can be stated that education level does not significantly influence the belief in global warming with a significance level α = 0.05 (because the p-value of corresponding chi-squared test was 0.075).
Lastly, the activities connected with environmental protection and participation in such activities by respondents was investigated. (The question asked whether the respondents took part in this type of activity during the year that preceded filling in the questionnaire.) The given activities were:
● Helping to clean the countryside (such as Ukliďme Česko).
● Signing a petition to protect nature.
● Sharing articles about environmental protection via social media.
● Financial gift (as a part of environmental protection).
● Participation in environmental demonstrations.
In Table 6, it is possible to see the overall percentages of activities undertaken by the respondents. A Total of 41% of respondents did not take part in any of the given activities. On the other hand, approximately one third of respondents (34%) share articles via social media, which could be considered the easiest way to highlight such problems.
Table 6: Environmental activities undertaken during last year
To use the data further, the authors decided to tally the number of all activities that each respondent joined (results shown in Graph 2) and calculate the overall average for all respondents, which was 1.001.
With such an aggregated number (activities joined during the last year by an individual as a single number), a significant difference can be found between men and women. (The p-value of the corresponding t-test is 0.011). With a mean of 1.086, women are more active in such environmental activities compared with men (average of 0.92). Therefore, we can claim that H5 has been verified. The results are summarised in Table 7.
Table 7: Influence of gender on the number of activities
As for the age generations, a significant difference can be seen in the number of activities that respondents participated in. (The p-value of the corresponding ANOVA test is 0.034.) The results are summarised in Table 8. The averages for the youngest age group and the oldest age group were the lowest. Generation Z (1996-2000) had an average of 0.77 (the second lowest). However, note that the data was collected before the emergence of the Fridays for Future movement, which would later probably increase the average of this generation.
Table 8: Influence of age on the number of activities
Results vary significantly when considering education level of respondents (the p-value of the corresponding ANOVA is 0.00095). As seen in Table 9, respondents with a university degree participate in 1.19 activities on average compared with the lowest average result of 0.83 activities of respondents who attended high school without graduating.
Table 9: Influence of education on the number of activities participated in
According to the results, we can claim H6 has been verified. Respondents with university degree tend to join the highest number of pro-environmental activities (1.19) on average.
For the purposes of further investigation, the authors decided to look at the possible correlation between belief in global warming and participation in environmental activities. From the list of activities, correlation of belief in global warming was studied with the following actions – taking part in demonstrations, sharing articles via social media and, generally, with the aggregated number of activities that respondents participated in. The presumption was based on the idea that if people believe in global warming, they would therefore be more active in joining the demonstrations and would rather share via social media and generally be more proactive in such activities.
As there is 71% of respondents believing in global warming, only 1% of all respondents reported to take part in a demonstration in the year that preceded the questionnaire. Correlation between belief in global warming and participation in demonstration is not statistically significant with the correlation coefficient of 0.0081 (and the corresponding test statistic t = 0.26 being less than the quantile t0,975(998) = 1.962).
Correlation between belief in global warming and sharing articles via social media (34% of all respondents reported sharing such articles) is statistically significant with a correlation coefficient of 0.13 (the corresponding test statistic t = 4.12 being greater than the quantile t0,975(998) = 1.962), as well as the correlation between a belief in global warming and the number of activities participated in with a correlation coefficient of 0.16 (the corresponding test statistic t = 4.99 being greater than the quantile t0,975(998) = 1.962).
The last presumption was that if people believe in green solutions of companies, they could have a feeling that acting in support of environmental protection will pay in the future. The correlation was examined between trust in green solutions of companies and the number of activities participated in. Such a correlation is significant with correlation coefficient of 0.12 (the corresponding test statistic t = 3.84 being greater than the quantile t0,975(998) = 1.962). Therefore, we can claim that H7 has been verified.
Czech consumers are still indecisive in the question of trust or mistrust in green solutions of companies. As the data showed, the overall average on the given scale (where 1 stood for „only marketing intentions“ and 7 stood for „sincere effort“) is 3.79. But on the long tails (end points), it is less than 5% of respondents who think about the green solutions as sincere effort and less than 10% of respondents who indicate their total mistrust in these marketed solutions (sense of greenwashing). However, the higher the education of respondents is, the higher their certainty about green solutions of companies.
Increasing public environmental concern was witnessed regarding the belief in global warming. As shown in the research, there is a significant difference between generations. An increasing percentage of respondents (up to the youngest Generation Z) believe in global warming, which supports the trend in rising environmental concern amongst young people. Namely 76% and 75% of respondents from Generation Y and Generation Z, respectively. Across the generations, a higher percentage of women reported believing in global warming compared with men.
The general concern about the environment is on the rise. Yet green scepticism is present as well as the attitude-behaviour gap. From the point of pro-environmental activities undertaken during the year that preceded filling the questionnaire, 41% of respondents did not join a single activity from the given options. Once again, it is education that significantly influences the willingness to join pro-environmental activities. The higher the education, the more activities respondents tend to join. The strong role of social media in green communication is supported, as 34% of respondents reported publicly sharing articles with environmental issues. On one hand, the positive relation between belief in global warming and sharing articles via social media was found. On the other hand, joining a demonstration is still probably a too extreme and more time-consuming form of presenting the green concern of consumers, as it is approximately 1% of respondents reporting so. Moreover, the relation between rising belief in global warming and joining demonstrations was not witnessed.
Czech consumers also show signs of being more proactive. The more trust they have in green solutions of companies, the more activities they join to show their pro-environmental concern. Both these expressions of interest in green activities are positively related with education.
Managerial implications to apply in the Czech Republic
Based on this research, the presented papers (Jaderná at al. 2018; Jaderná et al. 2019) and review of local research literature, we can assume that green consumers and related green marketing in the Czech Republic has many obstacles to overcome. Firstly, green scepticism towards company solutions and products is prevalent. Štrach (2019) adds that fewer but truthful and ethically sound marketing communications should be implemented to achieve the goal and become more trustworthy for consumers. There is no need for over-marketed solutions. Secondly, as the vast majority of today’s Czech consumers experienced Soviet hegemony and communism, they are much more function-and-utility-oriented and do not accept higher risk connected with new products and a search for further information (Némethová 2018a). Thirdly, marketers have to deal with young generations (Generation Y and Generation Z), which are used to capitalism-like western freedom and new technologies. Furthermore, they are more likely to buy into the visions provided by companies and read into adverts (Némethová 2018b). Fourthly, social media, e-commerce and education-based marketing is a way to empower brand loyalty, increase consumer willingness to join pro-environmental activities and educate consumers about green solutions, which are sometimes perceived sceptically (Knihová 2020). Lastly, high price sensitivity is a very important factor to take into account. Functional value is important for older generations (price, savings, and energy and water conservation). It partly translated into the behaviour of younger generations as well, and even improved in the field of recycling. The younger generations (Generation Y and Generation Z) are then price-sensitive when buying products (Vokounová 2019), easily searching online for many alternatives, yet they are not always able to distinguish ecological products when greenwashing may be present (Vokounová and Kopaničová 2015).
Regulation and governmental incentives could also be helpful to consumers for better market orientation, buying behaviour and education. Environmental certifications need to be more transparent, and easy to understand even for older generations. Demarketing and focus on „limits to growth“, as well as the focus on sustainability as a part of education, could play a key role in the future, which starts now. This research should provide an overview of the current state of green consumption, attitude, and behaviour of Czech green consumers. It was not the purpose of this paper to give a precise recipe for green marketing or green segmentation, but it can help to better understand green consumers and serve as a clue for individual companies and their green consumer strategies.
 The term „bio“ is used in the Czech Republic to denote „organic“ products.
 This paper is one of the outcomes of the research grant SGS/2019/01 Jaderná, Department of Marketing and Management at SKODA AUTO University.
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Kľúčové slová/Key words
green consumer, environmental concern, green scepticism, green marketing, consumer behaviour, segmentation
zelený spotřebitel, obavy o životní prostředí, zelený skepticismus, zelený marketing, spotřební chování, segmentace
JEL klasifikácia/JEL Classification
L62, M11, M31
Vyjádřený zelený postoj vs. skutečné pro-environmentální chování českých spotřebitelů
Zelený postoj a zelené spotřební chování by měly ve svém projevu korelovat, jedině tak lze dosáhnout cíle našeho environmentálního zájmu. Dosud však existují rozdíly mezi postojem a chováním a zelený postoj se nepropisuje rovnoměrně do skutečného spotřebního chování. Cílem této práce je popsat základní poznatky z výzkumu zeleného postoje českých spotřebitelů – důvěru v zelené aktivity firem, postoj ke globálnímu oteplování a ochotu zapojit se do pro-environmentálních aktivit s ohledem na segmentaci dle pohlaví, věku a vzdělání. Na základě výsledků výzkumné i teoretické části byly popsány manažerské implikace s cílem redukovat tuto mezeru mezi vyjádřeným postojem a skutečným chováním. Výsledky tohoto a předchozích článků (Jaderná a kol.) by měly sloužit jako vodítko k lepšímu porozumění českých zelených spotřebitelů.
2. November 2020 / 10. November 2020