|dc.description.abstracteng||This cumulative dissertation contributes to the mounting understanding of the multitude of factors that influence consumers to opt for food products with ethical or sustainable attributes. It consists of four independent research papers, which shed light on the different aspects of consumers’ motives to purchase ethically, their support for different standard specifications and on ways various message frames and their source can boost the valuation of such products. The presented dissertation defines its boundaries in terms of study sites (China, Germany, UK), certification schemes (climate-neutral, Fairtrade, organic, Rainforest Alliance) and food products (chocolate, tea). The interpretation and discussion of the evolving results are within those boundaries.
CHAPTER ONE introduces theoretical concepts on which this dissertation build, presents the various study sites and certification schemes and highlights the importance of consumer choice in moving towards more sustainable food systems. CHAPTER TWO exploratively assesses the role of the warm glow of giving in the evaluation of chocolate with ethical claims. The warm glow is defined as the personal benefit people derive when doing good irrespective of the consequences. The empirical analysis is based on a consumer survey and choice experiment in the UK and Germany (N=1,000). We capture participants’ level of the warm glow of giving via statement batteries. Our results suggest a stronger association between the warm glow and the intention to purchase the Fairtrade labelled chocolate as compared to other tested labels. We attribute this relationship to a strong and clear public good characteristic of the Fairtrade certification and its high awareness among participants. By choosing Fairtrade certified chocolate, consumers know they contribute to a greater good; hence, the warm glow feeling is associated with it. CHAPTER THREE shifts the focus to the design of certifications and identifies the most valued features of sustainability standards from a consumer perspective. By including a sustainability governance perspective, we incorporate often neglected features in our experiment. We also take a more nuanced look at the various specifications of sustainability standards by not employing them in a dichotomous manner, but by including multiple levels of standard stringency. Our analysis is based on a choice-based conjoint experiment with tea drinkers in China and the UK (N=2,000). Our findings show that consumer support for sustainable tea standards in both countries is primarily driven by food safety concerns, to a lesser extent by concerns about environmental and labour issues. Moreover, Chinese consumers support highly stringent standards only, whereas British consumers also accept medium-level standards. Standard sponsors and origin only matter for consumers in China.
The second part of this dissertation analyses how the valuation for prosocial and pro-environmental certifications can be increased. Studies in CHAPTER FOUR and CHAPTER FIVE employ different messages as treatments to measure possible effects on consumers’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for ethically certified products. CHAPTER TWO and CHAPTER FOUR are linked conceptually as they focus on the concept of the warm glow. The positive link between the warm glow and consumer preferences for the Fairtrade claim found in CHAPTER TWO is examined further. To explore whether the warm glow can be utilized as a nudge to increase consumers’ valuation of ethically certified products, we conduct a binding online experimental auction with consumers in Germany (N=1,000). Participants bid on tea and chocolate advertised with prosocial and pro-environmental labels after being randomly exposed to affectively and informatively framed messages. We also measure the experienced warm glow level of participants, and hypothesize a positive interaction between the warm glow level and the affective message. However, we find no such interaction but differing treatment effects according to standard type. Products with the pro-environmental certification receive higher bids in the treatment arms.
CHAPTER FIVE shifts the focus towards informative messaging in order to increase consumers’ valuation for chocolate with prosocial certification. The emphasis is on the role of information source and communicated effect statement. In an online survey, consumers in Germany (N=2,500) are randomly assigned to one of five information treatments or a control group. We find that the already high WTP for certified chocolate is robust to additional information provision irrespective of its source. Yet, purchasing intention can be incentivized by additional information when provided by a retailer or the government. In respect of the effect statement, we find that a supportive statement influences neither WTP nor purchase intention, whereas an unsupportive (zero effect) statement influences the purchase intention negatively. Here, a university serves as the source of both statements. CHAPTER SIX embeds all findings and policy recommendations of each study in a broader discussion of the role consumer choices play in moving towards more sustainable food systems.||de