Department of Marketing survey finds consumers' attitudes towards "socially responsible consumption" in Hong Kong are varied
05 Feb 2013
The Department of Marketing of the School of Business announced the findings of a survey on how consumers perceive socially responsible consumption in Hong Kong today (5 February). The survey showed that many respondents believe that consumers do not engage in socially responsible consumption because they think it would be inconvenient. The findings also indicated that people are more concerned about whether companies take care of their employees than the needs of disadvantaged groups in society when making their purchase decisions. In addition, when people consume, they are concerned more about whether the products harm endangered animals than polluting the environment, especially the air.
Professor Gerard Prendergast, Head of the Department of Marketing, and Dr. Alex Tsang, Associate Professor of the Department of Marketing, conducted a questionnaire survey from February to July last year. They surveyed 1,202 individuals aged 18 or above who have been living in Hong Kong for five or more years in different areas of Hong Kong to understand their perception of and views on socially responsible consumption.
"Socially responsible consumption" refers to the idea that consumers make consumption decisions based not only on the benefits that such decisions bring them, but also on the impact that the decisions have on other stakeholders such as the employees of a merchant, other consumers and the general public, as well as the natural environment.
The questionnaire was designed based on the scale of Webb, Mohr and Harris (2008) with a list of 20 responsible consumption intentions to be scored in order to understand more about the intentions behind consumers’ behaviour (“1” is the lowest score while “7” is the highest; a higher score represents a higher willingness to engage in that behaviour.) These 20 questions were further grouped into two categories: “Corporate Social Responsibility Concern” (13 questions) and “Environmental Friendly Consumption” (7 questions).
The results showed that respondents place different values on various responsible consumption behaviours. They tend to be more concerned about whether the companies take care of their employees’ welfare or fulfill generalised corporate social responsibilities, such as helping victims of natural disasters and engaging in charitable services. Respondents were less concerned about whether companies support particular disadvantaged groups, such as the disabled and ethnic minorities. In addition, when they consume, they are concerned more about whether the products harm endangered animals than polluting the environment. The findings implied that senior respondents or respondents with a monthly salary of HK$20,001 or above are more inclined to engage in socially responsible consumption. However, such consumption does not differ across different gender or educational level.
The survey also investigated the reasons why respondents do not engage in socially responsible consumption. Of the 1,202 respondents, 35 per cent believed that Hong Kong people think socially responsible consumption would cause inconvenience while 22 per cent thought that the power of the individual is limited. Another group, comprising 32 per cent of the respondents, believed that people in Hong Kong do not care or do not know what socially responsible consumption is. Only a minority, comprising 6 per cent, considered such consumption expensive.
Professor Prendergast said the findings would provide a valuable reference to the Government, the industry and consumers on consumers’ awareness of socially responsible consumption. He advised the Government and related educational institutions to develop strategies to emphasise that the minority and disadvantaged groups are integral members of society and that consumers should avoid engaging in consumption which would impact these groups in a negative way. In addition, the young generation and the less affluent should be educated on the importance of socially responsible consumption, and policies or actions should also be formulated to enable the consumers to engage in socially responsible consumption in a convenient way.
Both professors hoped that the Department could collect relevant data periodically in order to develop a “Hong Kong responsible consumption index” which could provide insights to related organisations for educational and promotional purposes.