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The Impact of Sustainability on Consumer Preference Judgments of Product Attributes

[+] Author Affiliations
Kosa Goucher-Lambert, Jonathan Cagan

Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Paper No. DETC2014-34739, pp. V007T07A007; 11 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Despite significant interest from consumers, sustainable products often struggle to find success in the marketplace. This failure is often attributed to the perception that consumers remain unwilling to sacrifice product attributes such as form, function, or price in order to adopt a product whose environmental impact is less than that of a competing product. This work aims to better understand how knowing a product’s environmental impact affects preference for that product’s disparate attributes. Three products of various complexities are explored through a conjoint analysis experiment that uncovers consumer preference for discrete form, function and price attributes. In this work, single use spoons, reusable water bottles, and home washing machines were used for analysis. These three products were decomposed into form, function, and price attributes that were varied at discrete levels. After a form-only ratings-based conjoint analysis study was conducted to find high, medium, and low preference form designs for each participant, two separate form-function-price discrete choice studies were conducted for each of the three products. These two discrete choice trials were identical in all aspects except in the second trial participants were provided with calculated environmental impact values for all design configurations; the presented environmental impact information was a dependent variable based on a Life Cycle Analysis calculation using the current product configuration being shown to the participant. Results show that when participants are provided with this additional piece of information, their preference for form, function, and price attributes of a product is greatly impacted. In particular we find that the importance of functional attributes increases in the context of environmental impact metrics, while the importance of form decreases and the importance of price decreases modestly.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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