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Why aren't green consumers buying green products

17 December 2015

Why are ‘green’ consumers not buying ‘green’ products?

School of Marketing and International Business lecturer Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone

Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone, from the School of Marketing & International Business

With all the awareness and social rhetoric around the need to reduce our environmental impact, it is natural to assume that green products and services are running a good trade.

However, multiple studies have found that consumers' purchasing habits do not necessarily match their attitudes when it comes to being environmentally-friendly.

School of Marketing and International Business lecturer Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone has investigated some of the reasons behind this contradiction.

Along with fellow researcher Dr Lay Peng Tan from Macquarie University, Dr Johnstone conducted several focus groups to gain a greater understanding of consumers' green consumptive habits and their perceptions of green products.

"One of the strongest themes to emerge from our research is the perception that it is too hard to be green, which can lead to inaction," Dr Johnstone says.

"According to our focus groups, being environmentally conscious takes time, effort and money. There is also a perception that one needs to be knowledgeable, live in the right place, have self-discipline and be prepared to make personal sacrifices to be green."

Some factors were internal; for example, some consumers didn’t feel ready to be green as they thought doing so would require giving up daily niceties.

Others felt external factors, such as the unavailability of green products, or the un-environmental habits of their housemates, made it more difficult to make green choices.

"Green reservations" a factor in consumer choices

Another major reason for eco-conscious consumers not buying eco-friendly products is what Dr Johnstone and Dr Tan dubbed "green reservations".

Some consumers do not think choosing green products will make a difference. Rather, they doubt the impact their choices will have on the environment.

Again, this notion is underpinned by multiple reasonings such as not perceiving a difference between green products and other products, an inability to identify the future consequences of their actions and believing one person’s efforts doesn’t make a difference.

Another reason is the growth of greenwash, which occurs when consumers are misled to believe that a company is participating in green practices or the product has environmental benefits, subsequently making it difficult for consumers to identify legitimate green products.

Dr Johnstone’s research goes further by making recommendations to help close the gap between consumers' attitudes and purchasing choices.

"The green hard sell is not working. Efforts should be made to make green appear easy, attainable and nonexclusive.

"Essentially, we need to work on normalising it because consumers are more likely to adopt behaviours and buy products that they perceive to be mainstream and part of the social norm."

Government regulation or recognised accreditation schemes would also make it easier for consumers to choose eco-friendly products, she says.

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Research on "trolling" wins KSMS Conference Award

18 November 2015

Dr Yuri Seo and Mathew Rex

A paper by Dr Yuri Seo and Mathew Rex won an award at the KSMS International Conference hosted by Yonsei University

Congratulations to Dr Yuri Seo and Mathew Rex, a former honours student in Marketing, for receiving the Best Conference Paper Award at the 2015 KSMS International Conference hosted by Yonsei University.

Their paper, 'The Impact of Trolling on Online Marketing Communications', investigated trolling, a form of online behaviour that entails deception and luring others into pointless and time consuming discussions.

The paper was co-authored with Dr Angela Cruz from Monash University, Australia.

The research found that trolling may have a dual pro-social and anti-social impact within online communities, which has implications for the management of online marketing communications.

Dr Seo is a senior lecturer in the School of marketing and International Business, and Mathew included an internship at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Sydney in his honours year of a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing.

Yonsei University is ranked among the top three universities in South Korea, and this year's conference theme was 'Marketing and Management for the Sustainable Future'.

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'Volkswagen crisis' bad news for German companies

28 September 2015

A global expert in crisis management from Victoria Business School believes the "Volkswagen crisis" is a serious threat to the survival of the car manufacturer and could have repercussions for other German companies.

Associate Professor Dan Laufer, from the School of Marketing and International Business, was interviewed on National Radio about the implications for the 78-year-old company (listen below).

Volkswagen (VW), one of the world’s biggest vehicle manufacturers, has admitted to programming around 11 million of its cars to detect when they were being tested and alter the running of their diesel engines to hide the true record of emissions.

It has been reported VW is likely to face criminal inquiries and fines in the billions of euros. The company’s share price has plummeted since the scandal broke earlier this week, and forced the resignation of its chief executive.

The revelation is "shocking" and a major breach of public trust

A/Prof Dan Laufer says the revelation is "shocking" and a major breach of the public’s trust that could spark the demise of the well-established company.

"For the company to knowingly install software that cheats governmental regulations is shocking. The company has seriously tarnished its reputation and lost its credibility," Dr Laufer says.

In his 2009 research on product harm crisis, Dr Laufer established VW had a strong brand that could provide a defence against some crises.

"However, this crisis differs significantly from other, more expected scenarios because it represents a serious breach of trust."

The company announced it will launch an investigation, but Dr Laufer says this needs to be conducted by a credible third party if the company's reputation is to be salvaged.

"The public will be widely sceptical of any findings from a VW investigation, so it is important for the company to hire investigators with impeccable credentials.

"They need to determine who is responsible for the installation of the software. If it is the result of the corporate culture at VW, the implications could be devastating."

Dr Laufer warns the crisis could have adverse consequences for other German companies as well.

"Volkswagen is strongly associated with Germany. This crisis could raise questions about the ethical behaviour of other German companies. If it does, we could see consumers across the globe move away from other German brands," he says.

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International Business students treated to top-level speaker

15 September 2015

His Excellency Carmelo
Barbarello, the Ambassador of Italy

His Excellency Carmelo Barbarello, the Ambassador of Italy

Last week, third-year International Business students were treated to a guest speaker of the highest calibre in their 'Negotiating Across Borders' class.

His Excellency Carmelo Barbarello, the Ambassador of Italy, shared with the students his knowledge on international negotiations based on his previous postings in Ethiopia, Argentina and India.

His Excellency says he hoped the students left the class with "an idea of what diplomatic life can be like, and the kind of challenges that it presents".

Senior lecturer Dr Cheryl Rivers says it was an honour to have the Ambassador share his experience with her students.

"His wonderful descriptions of the complex intergovernmental negotiations brought home to my aspiring negotiators just how mindful they have to be. Little moves by them or their counterparts can have big consequences."

Head of School, Associate Professor Dan Laufer, says the School of Marketing and International Business encourages incorporating guest speakers from both the business and government sectors.

"Last year we had the Chief Marketing Officer of BurgerFuel talk about the company's global expansion strategy at an international marketing course. This year, we were fortunate to have the Italian ambassador.

"The integration of practitioners in the School's curriculum is a great way to enhance the learning environment for our students," he says.

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Former Master’s student and supervisor prove a winning pair

29 July 2015


 Former Master’s student Stephanie Hooper, and her supervisor Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone, won Best Paper for the Consumer Behaviour track at an international marketing conference in Limerick, Ireland, earlier this month. The purpose of the research was to gain a better understanding of how people facilitate and inhibit other consumers’ green behaviour.

Micael-Lee, a lecturer in the School of Marketing and International Business, co-authored and presented the paper, which was based on Stephanie’s Master’s thesis. 

Stephanie’s paper found ‘not-so-green’ consumers were more likely to be motivated to make eco-friendly choices due to concerns about self-image, when compared to their greener counterparts. She also found consumers used a range of strategies such as emotional tactics, positive reinforcement and role modelling, to encourage others to make greener choices.

Micael-Lee was “really pleased” to win the Best Paper Award with Stephanie at the conference, which was attended by over 350 marketing academics and professionals from around the world. “I think it’s great that one of our Master’s students has done well at an international refereed marketing conference. It just highlights the high calibre of our students,” she says.

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Dan Laufer comments on crisis management at Toyota

2 July 2015


A/Prof Dan Laufer, head of the School of Marketing & International Business

Associate Professor Dan Laufer was one of three crisis experts asked by the Wall Street Journal to evaluate how well Toyota has handled a recent situation, where it's shined, where it's stumbled and what it should do next.

Dr Laufer, commenting in Crisis of the Week: Toyota’s Oxycodone Conundrum, said companies need to consider key stakeholder concerns when dealing with a crisis.

"In the case of Toyota and the arrest of its executive, Julie Hamp, two key stakeholders that are involved are foreign executives and the police.

"Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, did a good job in his news conference, however this crisis is in its early stages, and it remains to be seen how events will unfold."

The 'Crisis of the Week' series provides news and commentary to corporate executives and others who need to understand, monitor and control the many risks that can tarnish brands, distract management and harm investors.

This is the third time Dr Laufer, who is head of the School of Marketing and International Business, has featured in the series during 2015.

He also provided commentary for Crisis of the Week: Royal Caribbean Goes Overboard and Crisis of the Week: ESPN, McHenry’s Tow Truck Tangle.

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Political marketing focus of weekend conference

9 June 2015


Sports and political branding, and a comparison of the leadership campaigns of John Key and Barack Obama, were among the topics discussed at a highly successful conference hosted by Victoria University over the weekend.

Over 40 academic scholars and practitioners attended the Global Political Marketing and Management Conference, hosted by the School of Marketing and International Business in collaboration with the School of Government.

Presenters from the USA, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, as well as New Zealand, participated in the seminar, including representatives from national and regional government and leading political marketing experts.

"We believe that an exchange of ideas between academia and government is beneficial to both sides, and we are delighted that we could facilitate this exchange," says Associate Professor Dan Laufer, head of the School of Marketing and International Business.

Two papers from the conference have been accepted for publication in the well-known international journal, The Journal of Non-profit and Public Sector Marketing, which is publishing a special issue on political marketing.

"It is great to know that ideas from this conference will be read by people around the world," says Dr Laufer.

One of the conference speakers, Ken Cosgrove, Associate Professor of Government at Boston's Suffolk University, was interviewed about how to win the hearts and minds of voters on Radio New Zealand’s Sunday Morning programme.

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Real-world experience for marketing students

26 May 2015, a company that delivers fresh home-cooked meals to people’s doors, was one of eight Wellington businesses that provided real-life experience for 249 third-year students completing a Strategic Marketing Management paper. The students’ brief was to work with a business to create a strategic marketing analysis and a plan looking to the future.

‘Eat Together’ is the brand suggested by student Kallie French, which would involve cooking meals for families of up to five rather than the usual single-serve options, encouraging families to eat together at the table.

“I love the name and the idea, which will help us tap into a different market,” says Margaret Macaulay, managing director of, who plans to launch the new product in the next few months.

For the assignment, which is likely to become an annual course requirement, students were divided into groups and allocated a business with which to work.

Business representatives came to a tutorial at the University to talk about their strategic issues, enabling students to ask questions. Once the students had completed their strategy, they made formal presentations to their business.

“In a business school, I think it’s incredibly important to students to have some real-world experience, which is why we chose to use actual companies,” says the course coordinator, Dr Janine Williams.

“Students I talked to said they learned so much and enjoyed the practical application. They found it challenging, but more engaging and rewarding because they were dealing with real issues and constraints.”

Cath Randall, from Grow Wellington, helped Janine to identify businesses to participate in the project, and says feedback was positive.

“Not only did the students benefit, many of the businesses remarked on how impressed they were by the students’ insights and ideas,” she says. “This kind of experience is invaluable for students before they enter the workforce.”

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Two papers accepted by Journal of Business Research

18 May 2015

pub_jbrUpcoming issues of the Journal of Business Research will feature two papers by SMIB lecturers. The school extends it congratulations to Yuri Seo and Aaron Gazley on their forthcoming publications.


  • Dr Seo’s paper, “Professionalized consumption and identity transformations in the field of eSports”, investigates the social world and self-concept dynamics that underpin an organised and competitive approach to playing computer games, or ‘electronic sports’. The findings highlight that professionalized pursuits can be conceived as distinct fields of cultural production with characteristics that set this form of consumption apart from both casual leisure and work. It also considers how consumer transformations occur when a consumer embarks on a serious leisure career, leading him or her away from mainstream culture and towards becoming a skilled adherent of the professionalised consumption field.
  • Taking into account the lack of research into marketing-related law, Dr Gazley’s paper, “Towards a Theory of Marketing Law Transgressions”, develops and tests a dynamic model of transgressing marketing law. This model investigates both the antecedents and consequences of illegal marketing behaviour. Using a Linear Mixed Model, the results show that conditions of control have the greatest effect on the potential for transgression. The use of compliance programmes and perceptions of risk are identified as being particularly effective in reducing the potential for multiple transgressions.

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Best Qualitative Paper in International Business: finalists announced

13 April 2015

A paper co-authored by Dr Hongzhi Gao has been nominated for the Best Qualitative Paper award at this year’s Annual Conference of the Academy of Management held in Vancouver, Canada. Sponsored by the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the award is given to a paper that uses qualitative methodology to make a strong contribution to IB theory development.

Dr Gao’s paper examines relational (guanxi) gatekeeping in business network management in China and will be considered alongside a pool of 4-5 other finalists at the conference later this year. Guided by a yin-yang balancing logic, the paper draws on interviews conducted with Chinese and Western business managers to identify a series of key gatekeeping constructs that connect local guanxi insiders with foreign outsiders. The award will be announced and presented to the winner at the International Management Division Business Meeting during the conference.

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IMR editor spends week at Victoria

2 April 2015

Visiting Scholar, Professor John Cadogan, gave a public lecture on the role of market orientation at the first Distinguished Lecture Series event of 2015. Continuing a three year tradition of hosting leading academics in marketing or international business, the school invited Professor Cadogan to spend a week at Victoria, to share his research and expertise with Victoria Business School staff, students, alumni and the wider business community.

Cadogan, who is also editor in chief of the International Marketing Review, spoke to the audience about the logic of implementing a market orientation and the relationship between market orientation and firm success. In addition to the public lecture, Professor Cadogan held a workshop and a seminar at the school, allowing staff and students to benefit from his extensive research and publishing experience in an informal setting.

For more information about upcoming events at SMIB, visit the events page which is updated regularly with information about public lectures, workshops and seminars.

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Poster award for SMIB summer scholar

31 March 2015

Professor Kate McGrath congratulating Lauren Chalmers

Marketing Honours student, Lauren Chalmers (R) with Professor Kate McGrath

SMIB Marketing Honours student, Lauren Chalmers, took out one of three commerce prizes at this year’s Summer Gold Poster Competition held at The Hub in Kelburn.

The competition offers summer research scholars the chance to submit a poster or video to present their work and findings to a general audience.

Lauren’s scholarship topic investigated advertising of the WWII “Make Do and Mend” campaign, which communicated the importance of making do and re-using in a period of scarce resources and significant rationing of essential products.

The judges were impressed by the quality of content and creative appeal of Lauren’s poster, commenting on the clever use of World War Two-era magazine advertisements. They also praised the use of a monochrome colour palette and the artful organisation of typefaces and illustrations used to provoke both nostalgia and interest in the research.

Guests at the event were able to view a range of posters entered into the competition from across the university.

Posters entered by other SMIB Summer Scholars were also of a very high standard and compared favourably alongside those from other disciplines.

SMIB Summer Scholars included:

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Corporate social responsibility in the spotlight

30 March 2015

Professor Sankar Sen speaking at the BNZ Harbour Quays

More than 100 Victoria Business School alumni and stakeholders gathered at BNZ, Harbour Quays on March 17 to attend a public lecture by Professor Sankar Sen. Professor Sen delivered an engaging lecture on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), an issue that is increasingly important to the business community, but which many companies are struggling to optimise. He spoke of how companies can optimise their CSR efforts to create value for both themselves and society.

The public lecture followed an earlier presentation at the School of Marketing and International Business. In this presentation, Professor Sen spoke to the school’s academic staff and PhD students about consumer reactions to CSR in the case of disaster relief. Professor Sen’s research in this area attempts to understand consumer reactions to marketer actions by focusing on two factors: the nature of corporate contributions and consumers’ perceived controllability of the disaster.

Professor Sen has lectured extensively on CSR in academic and industry forums worldwide. His research has appeared in both academic and practitioner-directed journals and been cited in leading media outlets. During his visit at SMIB, Sankar Sen was interviewed by journalists from Radio New Zealand and Stuff.

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