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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Exploring sustainability liability/asset effects: The role of product category and type of green attribute

Published: May 28, 2019


Siv Skard, Norwegian School of Economics; Herbjørn Nysveen, Norwegian School of Economics; Lars Jacob Pedersen, Norwegian School of Economics; Sveinung Jørgensen, Norwegian School of Economics


sustainability ; liability; quality


This paper builds on the assumption that consumers make positive inferences about a product’s functional quality when a green attribute is introduced in a gentle category, and that they will make negative inferences about functional quality when sustainability is introduced in a strong category. Findings from three experimental studies show that perceived functional quality is a significant mediator mechanism explaining positive (negative) effects of green attributes on product preferences in gentle (strong) product categories. We also document type of green attribute (central vs. peripheral) as a moderator of this effect. Specifically, a green attribute that is central to the product’s functionality (i.e. chemicals in a cleaning product), as opposed to peripheral (i.e. the packaging of a cleaning product) generates stronger liability (asset) effects in a strong (gentle) category. Results suggest that liability/asset effects of green attributes are contingent on consumer segments.