When sustainability backfires: a review on the unintended negative side-effects of product and service sustainability on consumer behaviour

Diletta Acuti, Marta Pizzetti, Sara Dolnicar

    Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

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    Abstract

    The existential need for more sustainable production and consumption has attracted substantial scholarly interest, which has focused on the positive outcomes of corporate sustainability. Negative side-effects have been largely neglected. This study contributes (1) by synthesizing past research into such negative side-effects from a diverse set of business disciplines; (2) by conceptualising – for the first time – unintended negative side-effects of product and service sustainability; and (3) by developing a research agenda guiding researchers in addressing the most important knowledge gaps. The synthesis of 94 articles identifies three main cognitive mechanisms (information elaboration, product perception bias, and self-perception) and several emotionally aversive states (anxiety, shame, guilt, regret, distress, reduced enjoyment, frustration, discomfort, stress, and embarrassment) that are responsible for unintended negative side-effects resulting from product and service sustainability. Immediate managerial implications from this research include the critical importance of simple corporate sustainable communication that does not require consumers to dedicate substantial cognitive resources. Important future research directions include the investigation of the effects of green hushing and the development and testing of practical ways to help companies to avoid the sustainability liability trap, which leads to a reduced demand because of sustainable features of products or services.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPsychology and Marketing
    Early online date8 Jul 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusEarly online - 8 Jul 2022

    Keywords

    • sustainability
    • sustainable consumption
    • negative effect
    • information complexity
    • product perception
    • self-perception
    • systematic review

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