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Vägen mot hållbart konsumentbeteende gynnas av fyra re-konfiguratorer

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Att få människor att välja miljömässigt hållbara produkter kan vara utmanande. Bottenfärger på fritidsbåtar ger stora utsläpp av giftiga ämnen i havet samtidigt som det finns hållbara alternativ som skulle kunna användas i stället.

Bianca Koroschetz har i sin doktorsavhandling studerat hur konsumenter arbetar med bekämpning av bottenpåväxt på sina fritidsbåtar. Hon har funnit fyra re-konfiguratorer som kan bidra till mer hållbara konsumentbeteenden. Dessutom har hon några råd att ge till den som marknadsför hållbara produkter.

Why did you choose to study antifouling?
-I chose this subject because of my personal interests in sustainability and the practical relevance of the topic in today’s society. As we have seen in several cases, the introduction and offering of sustainable products alone does not automatically lead to the purchase of these products nor to the integration of these products in existing practices. Antifouling is another case where unsustainable products are dominating the market even though an array of sustainable products and services are available, says Bianca Koroschetz.

How did you go about your study?
- I used a practice-theoretical perspective to learn more about how we can facilitate a change from unsustainable practices (including the consumption of toxic antifouling products) to more sustainable practices (including the use of sustainable antifouling products and services). Practices can be understood as routinized human activity consisting of several interrelated elements. The consumers' practices were in focus, that means that I was studying what they were actually doing. I observed boaters in marinas and boat clubs preparing the boat hull for the next season to learn more about the materials used for antifouling practices, what knowledge was needed for carrying out this practice and what the process of antifouling meant to them. Besides studying consumer practices I also studied how sustainable and unsustainable products are advertised and supplied and also interviewed producers of sustainable alternatives to learn more about barriers for sustainable consumption.

What are the most important results in your research?
- From analyzing the results of my study I found four re-configurators that can enable the re-orientation of consumer behavior in a more sustainable direction: eco-innovation, regulation, marketing practices and infrastructures. Only the combination of these four re-configurators can support a change in consumer behavior. Eco-innovations include the manufacturing of products and services with a reduced impact on the environment, for example by using recycled material or reducing toxic ingredients in products. The second re-configurator is regulation and understood in a broader sense including national laws, but also about voluntary regulations for example through boat clubs forbidding toxic paints. Marketing practices include activities promoting environmentally sustainable products and services as well as the supply of these offerings. Infrastructures are understood as the basic material infrastructures that can support the exchange of sustainable goods and services, for example boat clubs providing the sustainable alternative of a boat washer in their boat club and making it fairly convenient for boaters to adopt sustainable antifouling alternatives.

What would your advice be to someone who is going to market sustainable products?
- I would work on the availability of sustainable alternatives to make it easier for consumers to purchase the green alternatives. In most cases, consumers need to make an extra effort to purchase the majority of biocide-free antifouling, such as purchase them on boat fairs or on the producers' websites. Creating awareness of differences in supply and product presentation can be helpful for producers of sustainable antifouling solutions who want to increase their sales. Instead of offering sustainable products on niche markets, the producers should offer them in the mainstream market, where they will appear together with the unsustainable products and services to increase the consumers’ awareness of the existence of sustainable alternatives.

I would also consider changing the advertising strategies for sustainable antifouling products . My thesis illustrates that advertising strategies for sustainable and unsustainable antifouling products were very distinct. While unsustainable antifouling products were advertised on an emotional level, highlighting the fun experiences enabled through toxic products, sustainable products' advertising addressed the functionality and environmental friendliness of the products. Highlighting these distinct marketing strategies can help manufacturers, marketers and brands of sustainable products change their advertising strategies and incorporate illustrations and verbal descriptions emphasizing the possibility of hedonic experiences with green products in order to increase the sale of sustainable products.

Finally, marketers need to understand that the introduction of a new or innovative product on the market is not only about replacing an unsustainable product with a sustainable one. Rather, there are certain dynamics tied to this process. The integration of new sustainable products into current practices might interfere with existing practices, and for that reason the products might not be accepted by the consumers. For example, changing from painting to using a hull cover results in considerable changes in the antifouling practice for the boater. For example, by switching to a hull cover, the boater misses out on social interactions with other boaters while painting the boat hull. This was one of the reasons why some boaters did not want to use a new sustainable product. This knowledge can be helpful for marketers to understand why some products do not succeed on the market.

Om avhandlingen

Bianca Koroschetz vid Företagsekonomiska institutionen disputerade 5 juni 2019 på avhandlingen Exploring the (re-)configuration of environmentally unsustainable practices. Antifouling in the Baltic Sea.

Contact: bianca.koroschetz@gu.se