Efforts to combat climate change require action at all levels. Therefore, environmental sustainability is also a topic of increasing relevance in the cosmetics industry.
Cosmetic products are used by the vast majority of people on a daily basis and have a high environmental impact during their product life cycle due to ingredients and materials used and the entire manufacturing process (Cosmetics Europe, 2017). Hence, cosmetic manufacturers are obliged to take responsibility and produce more ecological alternatives of these millions of products used every day. The cosmetics industry and its business practices are increasingly being scrutinized by consumers, who are becoming more aware that their consumption decisions can have a direct impact on the environment as well as on themselves (Sahota, 2013). Due to a rising level of education and improved access to information consumers are led to increasingly questioning product ingredients, product origins, production methods as well as environmental and ethical impacts of products (Sahota, 2013).
These changes in consumerism and rising health and environmental consciousness have already increased the demand for living a healthier lifestyle and for consuming more natural and organic personal care products (Ghazali et al., 2017). Natural and organic personal care products are products that are used for the care or cleaning of hair, skin, nails, or teeth (e.g. deodorant, soap, shampoo; Kim & Chung, 2011; Todd, 2004; Wu & Chen, 2012). They are made from natural raw materials, which are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. In addition, raw materials from dead vertebrates and ingredients based on mineral oil such as paraffins, silicones or polyethylene glycols (PEG) as well as solid plastic particles are not used (Industrieverband Körperpflege- und Waschmittel e.V., 2020; Verbraucher Initiative e.V., 2019). Organic personal care products are mostly certified by various private labels such as NaTrue, BDIH, Cosmos, or EcoCert.
Due to the increasing relevance of more environmentally conscious and healthier consumption the market for green and organic cosmetics is expanding globally, while the market for conventional cosmetics is mostly stagnating (Industrieverband Körperpflege- und Waschmittel e.V., 2020; POS kompakt, 2019; Sahota, 2013). In Germany, one of the leading European markets for natural and organic cosmetics, the market volume reached more than 1.38 billion Euros in 2019 (Dambacher, 2019; Statista, 2020). Considering this substantial market volume and the significant growth potential (Future Market Insights, 2020), the market for green personal care products represents an important sector that requires in-depth investigation (Liobikienė et al., 2017). In particular, understanding German consumers’ underlying decisions for the acceptance of organic personal care products is worthwhile due to the recent trends and transition into a greener cosmetics market.
In her research, Kathrin Railjan from the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences addressed this issue and identified the key factors influencing the acceptance of green personal care products. For this purpose, the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen, 1991) was extended by including other influencing factors that have been shown to be relevant in previous research on green consumption. Survey data from 321 respondents were used to analyse this comprehensive research model using a Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). The findings revealed that a higher health consciousness and the willingness to pay a higher price compared to conventional cosmetic products as well as a more positive attitude towards the purchase lead to a higher acceptance of green personal care products. In addition, consumers who tend to feel able to make an effective contribution to environmental protection by buying green personal care products (perceived consumer effectiveness) or consumers who know exactly how and where they can purchase such products (control on availability), show a higher acceptance. Furthermore, consumers are more likely to be influenced by people that are important to them like family members or friends (descriptive/injunctive personal norm) in comparison to the purchasing behaviour of society (descriptive social norm). A perceived social pressure to buy green personal care products (injunctive social norm) even causes a lower acceptance of green personal care products.
The factor attitude has the greatest effect on acceptance and is significantly positively influenced by consumers‘ environmental consciousness and product knowledge as well as their perception of how environmentally friendly or healthy (perceived environmental or health product value) the product is compared to conventional alternatives. The attitude is also able to explain the correlation between environmental consciousness and acceptance, so that more environmentally conscious consumers have a more positive attitude towards buying green personal care products and consequently show a higher acceptance. Another finding of the study is also that women are more likely to purchase green personal care products due to their higher environmental consciousness and associated more positive attitude towards the purchase.
What does this mean for practice? Marketers should inform consumers about the specific characteristics of green personal care products in more detail and utilise miniature samples to induce trials. It is also advisable to place green personal care products more visible, to provide consumers with more specific information about where (e.g. in which stores) they can purchase them and about the possible contribution to environmental protection that they can make by purchasing green personal care products. Moreover, marketers should communicate the product advantages of green personal care products (e.g. environmental or health product value) compared to conventional products. To increase acceptance marketers can also implement referral programs. Since the current research showed that the feeling of a certain pressure from society to use green personal care products leads to a reduced acceptance, marketers should refrain from messages that refer to the widespread use of green personal care products in society. In order to increase environmental and health consciousness, public awareness campaigns could be used (e.g. information on the impact of the use of cosmetic products on the environment and human health).
To sum up, the findings are a promising starting point for the conception of target group-specific strategies, the establishment of a strong product positioning as well as the use of effective marketing activities, which include a deep understanding of consumers and focus on the promotion of the central factors influencing their acceptance of green personal care products.
What is your opinion on natural and organic cosmetic products? Do you already buy them on a regular basis? We look forward to hearing about your experiences.
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