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To what extent do people value sustainable-resourced materials? A choice experiment with cars and mobile phones across six countries

Dimitris Potoglou, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Colin Whittle, Ioannis Tsouros, Paul Haggar, Tobias Persson
Journal of cleaner production 2020 v.246 pp. 118957
consumer demand, education, environmental impact, mobile telephones, total nitrogen, willingness to pay, Germany, India, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States
The environmental impacts of material production, processing and consumption are profound and increasing. The aim of this study was to examine the extent at which consumers of diverse products – specifically, cars and mobile phones – valued the sustainability of materials resourced to make them. Using two choice experiments in Germany, India, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the US (total N = 6,033), we found that economic and functional attributes dominated product choice. Respondents placed relatively little or no value on ethically- or sustainably- sourced materials whereas non-conventional (organic) materials were important only in some countries. The overall low average scores of self-reported knowledge (4.8 for cars and 4.7 for mobile phones; score range 1–10) and salience about the sustainability of vehicles and phones (5.7 for cars and 4.9 for mobile phones) were partially consistent with this relatively limited influence of the sustainable materials on product preferences. Findings showed considerable cross-national differences in consumer knowledge, preferences and willingness to pay. For example, respondents from all countries except the US placed a significantly positive value on cars made of ethically-sourced-organic materials with marginal willingness to pay values ranging from a minimum of €1,951 in Germany up to a maximum of €4,524 in the UK. In the case of mobile phones, respondents placed both positive and negative values against alternative materials relative to conventional materials, which was the reference case. Also, there was disparity between self-reported sustainability knowledge/concerns and experimental product choices. Policymakers should consider further economic and/or education measures to facilitate consumer demand for products made of sustainable-materials.