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Study to look at how consumers perceive sustainable products

April 30, 2013

As consumers become more aware of their spending habits, one study taking place at Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) hopes to discover how consumers perceive sustainable products and packaging. Study directors expect to determine what kinds of products and packaging will encourage a consumer to purchase an eco-friendly household item.

The study is conducted by Carola Grebitus, assistant professor of Food Industry Management at the Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management at CTI. Grebitus was approached by Henkel, a global company in laundry and home care, beauty care and adhesives with its corporate headquarters located in Dusseldorf, Germany. Henkel’s regional headquarters for its North America consumer products (such as Dial soap, Purex laundry detergent and Renuzit air freshener) is located in Scottsdale, Ariz.  

Henkel offers many sustainable products that reduce energy and water consumption as well as waste disposal through product life cycle. The company also encourages consumers to use environmentally-friendly goods with sustainable habits and practices at home.

In the study conducted by Grebitus and her team, some of Henkel’s sustainable products will be tested to determine how consumers perceive them. Study participants will look at various packaging, formulation and marketing materials and give feedback as to what encourages them to be more sustainable in their purchasing choices.

Preliminary research began in December and the study will conclude in May.

As a member of the Network on the Economics of Food Choice and Health, Grebitus’s fields of expertise lie in sustainability and health, and she says working with Henkel on this study fit well with her interests.

“Climate change is happening, and we have to do something about it,” Grebitus said. “I am happy to be involved in a study that promotes a lifestyle change in which will benefit the environment.”

Although many companies have developed green household products, Grebitus says many times those products fail because careful examination is not taken to understand what it means to a consumer to purchase and use a sustainable product. Grebitus plans to bring together the objective and subjective quality of the study in order to find out what consumers think about sustainability in relation to purchasing household goods.

“I want to help consumers understand what is sustainable by discovering what sustainability means to them,” she said. “In this study, we deal with perception which leads to uncovering what it means to be environmentally friendly as a consumer.”

Written by Sydney B. Donaldson, College of Technology and Innovation