Evaluation of Green Products - the Process of Recognizing Information and Forming Qualitative Judgments -


Michiyo Aoki (1994) ,"Evaluation of Green Products - the Process of Recognizing Information and Forming Qualitative Judgments -", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. Joseph A. Cote and Siew Meng Leong, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 36-42>.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1994      Pages 36-42>



Michiyo Aoki, Keio University

[The author thanks Prof. Takeshi Shimizu, Prof. Shuzo Abe, and two reviewers for their helpful comments.]


This paper examines the relationship among various constructs regarding evaluation of green products in a conceptual model, and especially compares the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic attributes on the "perceived quality" by LISREL. The results suggest that the brand name and the feel positively influence perception of quality. In addition, the level of involvement is important in understanding consumer's perception of quality for recycled paper. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Although the recognition of the importance of environmental issues and growing awareness and efforts to use green products, apprehension has grown over the fact that product recycling remains incomplete. In particular, regarding the purchase of green products, idealism and reality have failed to find a common meeting ground, hampering purchases of recyclable products in spite of widespread recognition of the need for environmental protection.

In this study, we deal with the problem of buying recycled paper, especially toilet tissue, which is a serious problem in Japan. As Japanese yen has risen, the price of imported pure pulp has decreased, in contrast, the relative costs of recycled paper have increased. At present, the prices of both pure pulp and recycled paper are almost the same in Japan. Therefore, the purchase of pure pulp tissues has been increased, and that of recycled paper tissues has been decreased.

The study examines if the process of information integration and that of making inference following the input of data on the product's ecological value affect consumer's evaluation of quality and other features.


Most previous studies on information search deal with the external search (Bettman and Park, 1980; Johnson and Russo, 1984; Brucks 1985), yet few studies are done on internal search. This paper examines how product information is integrated and related to judgment of product quality by consumers.

In such case, it is important to understand how consumers combine the external information with inner information. Wilkie(1990) suggests the topic of perception is concerned with the translation from the external, physical world to internal, mental world. And two factors, such as stimulus characteristics and consumer characteristics, seem to determine the manner of perception.

When we evaluate a product, product attributes as stimulus characteristics and personal factors as consumer characteristics may have effects on the perception of quality. Those product attributes are dichotomized into intrinsic and extrinsic attributes. Involvement and knowledge are regarded as consumer's personal factors. Therefore, the final judgment of product quality seems to be influenced by those attributes, consumer's involvement and knowledge.

Holbrook (1981) proposed an integrative model of evaluative judgment based on the lens model in psychology as its theoretical support. In his model, subjective attribute perceptions intervene between objective product features and ultimate brand evaluations. He emphasized the effect of the mediation of perception. When the model is applied to the recognition of green products, product features in combination form a perception, which in turn becomes an element of preference. The first stage (i.e., features) in his model is merely objective but the final stage (i.e., evaluative judgments of the products) is diverse according to the personal factors of individual consumers (such as knowledge, involvement, and past experience). Because this process of perception is not only determined by the level of involvement but also depends on the manner of perception.

At least two research trends on "perceived quality" are found: one concerning the construct on evaluation of service quality (such as Zeithaml, Berry and Parasuraman,1993), and the other concerning the relationship between external cues and qualitative inference, focusing on the scheme of price and perceived quality. The present study integrates these two approaches, being inspired by the previous works by Monroe (Dodds and Monroe 1985, Monroe and Krishnan 1985, Monroe and Chapman 1987, Rao and Monroe 1988 ,Rao and Monroe 1989, and Dodds, Monroe and Grewal 1991), and by Zeithaml (1988) who proposed a type of model in which both objective and subjective constructs interact each other and eventually lead to the purchase.

Based on those previous works, the framework of the present study is shown in Fig.1. "Intrinsic Attribute" involves the physical composition of the product. In toilet tissues intrinsic attributes should include such attributes as color, design, material, and feel. "Extrinsic Attribute" are product-related but not part of the physical product itself. Price, brand name, and level of advertising are examples of extrinsic attributes. Both intrinsic and extrinsic attributes affect "Perceived Quality." However, the effects are thought to be moderated by consumer's personal factors such as Involvement and Knowledge.

The relationship between each constructs on "Perceived Quality" of green products is illustrated in the model in Fig. 2. "Objective Price" as an extrinsic attribute affects "Perceived Quality" through "Perception of Price". "Intrinsic Attributes" and "Past Experience" of the product affect "Perceived Quality" directly. "Brand Name", "Level of Advertising", and "Word of Mouth" are perceived as "Reputation", which in turn affects "Perceived Quality".

Involvement for tissue was reported neither high nor low but average (Mittal, 1989). In his study, the measure of involvement was more specific to the brand purchase decision as opposed to a general product class involvement. The involvement was operationalized as the degree of caring for what a consumer may choose from among several alternatives of a product. The result means the fact when a consumer buys tissue, he/she cares moderately about which brand of tissue to buy. So, it seems meaningful to test the role of involvement in perception of tissue paper with different data.





The relationship between personal factor (involvement) and "Perceived Quality" is examined as hypotheses in this model. According to Petty and Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood Model(e.g. Petty and Cacioppo, 1986), high involvement leads to the so-called "central route" and low involvement leads to the "peripheral route," therefore, two hypotheses are proposed.

H1: When consumer's ecological involvement is high, the effect of the intrinsic attributes for the "perceived quality" will be greater than the effect of the extrinsic attributes.

H2: When consumer's ecological involvement is low, the effect of the extrinsic attributes for the "perceived quality" will be greater than the effect of the intrinsic attributes.


Subjects. 600 females who live in Yokohama, aged between 20's and 40's were recruited, they were mostly housewives.

Design and Procedure. Data for this study were obtained by a mail survey. The subjects were divided into two samples randomly. One sample was asked to evaluate the toilet tissue made from recycled paper, and the other was asked to evaluate the pure pulp one. Other conditions (i.e. Brand, Color, Design and Price) are the same in two samples. 460 responses were returned within 2 weeks, of these 417 questionnaires were usable. The size of sample was 203 (pure pulp) and 214 (recycled paper), respectively.

Measures. Subjects responded 7-point bipolar scales representing for each attributes of the paper, their ecological knowledge, and ecological involvement. The key dependent variables, such as Perceived Quality, Perceived Value, Purchase Intention were measured based on the measure used by Dodds, Monroe, and Grewal(1991). The knowledge and involvement measures were selected from the author's previous study on consumer's purchase intention of green products.






We examined the structure of perceived quality for green products, based on the model in Fig.2. The accepted LISREL model is shown in Fig.3, which is a stripped-down version of the model in Fig.2. We call this Model A and use it for the examination of our hypotheses. The results of LISREL analyses for the model were shown in Table 1 and 2. Table 1 is the results of parameter estimation for High Involvement group and Table 2 is for Low Involvement group.

Hypothesis 1 that states "when consumer's ecological involvement is high, the effect of the intrinsic attributes for the perceived quality will be greater than the effect of the extrinsic attributes," may be tested by comparing the estimated value of g11, which is the path from Brand Name to Perceived Quality, with that of g12. If the estimated value of g11 for Brand Name were smaller than that of Intrinsic Attributes (g12), then Hypothesis 1 would be supported. In Table 1, g11 is 0.319 (standardized estimates) and g12 is 0.500, therefore, Hypothesis 1 is supported.





Hypothesis 2 is reverse to Hypothesis 1, therefore the expected relationship is g11>g12. However, the support of Hypothesis 1 does not automatically support Hypothesis 2. The test of Hypothesis 2 should be conducted separately with the Low Involvement group. The estimated results for the Low Involvement group are shown in Table 2. In Table 2, g11 is 0.392 (standardized estimates) and g12 is 0.409, therefore Hypothesis 2 is not supported.

The results show that the effects of intrinsic attributes on "Perceived Quality" is greater than that of extrinsic attributes in both groups. However we can see the difference of the effects between these groups. In the High Involvement group, the standardized path coefficients of attributes are 0.319 (Brand Name) and 0.500 (Intrinsic Attributes), respectively, and in the Low Involvement group, the standardized path coefficients of attributes are 0.392 (Brand Name) and 0.409 (Intrinsic Attributes), respectively.

The difference is larger in the former group. The results are consistent with ELM, which predicts that Intrinsic Attributes have larger effects on Perceived Quality in the High Involvement group (i.e., 0.500 in the High Involvement group and 0.409 in the Low Involvement group). On the contrary, an Extrinsic Attribute (Brand Name) has a larger effect on Perceived Quality in the Low Involvement group (0.319 in the High Involvement group and 0.392 in the Low Involvement group). The results indicate that Involvement is important in understanding the consumer perception of quality for recycled paper.



To further compare the effects of various intrinsic attributes on perceived quality of recycled paper, we built Model B shown in Fig. 4. We measured Intrinsic Attributes by four factors, i.e. Color, Design, Material, and Feel.

In Model A, the measure of Intrinsic Attributes are IA1(Color) and IA3(Material), which have high reliability coefficients by LISREL. Model B has original four indicators of Intrinsic Attributes, each path from Intrinsic Attributes to Perceived Quality show the effect of each Intrinsic Attributes. Comparing the path of g11-g16 in Model B, we also know the relative weights of Intrinsic Attributes vs. Extrinsic Attributes in determining the value of Perceived Quality. The results of LISREL analyses were in Table 3.

Table 3 shows the results of two samples, i.e. Pure Pulp and Recycled Paper. Each sample was further divided into two sub-samples by personal factors; Involvement, Knowledge, Involvement with the Product, and Knowledge about the Product, respectively. The size of each sub-sample is about 100, therefore, the use of LISREL analyses is secured.

The results show that Brand Name and Feel have positive effects on Perceived Quality in the Recycled Paper sample. These are significant at the 1% level. The relationship between the effects of these two attributes on Perceived Quality is different among the sub-samples of Recycled Paper. For example, the effects of these two attributes are almost the same in the sub-sample of High Knowledge, but Feel has a larger effect than Brand Name in the High Involvement sub-sample.

Although Feel has also a positive effect on Perceived Quality in the Pure Pulp sample, Brand Name has no effect in the sample. Color has a positive effect on Perceived Quality in some sub-samples of Pure Pulp, but it does not have such an effect in Recycled Paper sample. Perception of Price has a negative effect on Perceived Quality in the sub-sample of Pure Pulp, this is the reverse of the relationship expected from the model of Monroe, et al.(Dodds, Monroe, and Grewal 1991).

This last result is difficult to explain. But this may be attributable to our data collection method. In our study the objective price for pure pulp tissues was 380 yen and was uniform to all respondents. Therefore each respondent's score of "Perceived Price" reflects how he/she perceives the same 380 yen. Our result indicates that, if a respondent perceives the price to be high, he/she tends to evaluate the quality to be low. This is also true with the high involvement/knowledge groups.

This may be possible if the people with high involvement/knowledge also have high ability in judging price-quality relationships. They may think that the price of 380 yen is too expensive and the tissue does not have the value, which is close to the perceived quality for that price, or they may simply know high-priced pure pulp tissues tend to have poor quality in Japan. However, this remains to be tested in future studies, for we do not have enough data to examine this point.


The present study examined the relationship among various constructs regarding evaluation of green products. There are two interesting findings. The first is that involvement plays some role in explaining the manner of perception. Hypothesis 1 was supported but Hypothesis 2 was not supported. This result is partly consistent with ELM. At present we do not know why Hypothesis 2 was not supported. Future studies are needed to further investigate the complex role of Involvement as well as developing better scales for Involvement. However, as we witnessed in the result section, the results were somewhat different between consumers with High Involvement and those with Low Involvement. So, the role of Involvement as a moderating variable should not be negated.

The second point that can be summarized from our study is that Brand Name and Feel positively influence the perceived quality of recycled paper. The findings suggest that consumer's perception of the quality of recycled paper is based on these cues. Especially, Brand Name has a large effect on Perceived Quality for the consumers whose Purchase Intention is low.

The former factor, Brand Name, seems to indicate that consumers in Japan are still lacking confidence in judging the quality of recycled paper. Efforts to establish a brand name should be effective in marketing recycled paper tissues. This is an interesting finding when one recognized the fact that there are no established brand for recycled paper tissues in Japan. It means if large companies started to produce recycled paper tissues then they would enjoy higher evaluation by Japanese consumers.

Feel is also important. However, in our study the measure of Feel is not based on the actual touch on the product but merely imaginative perception of it. Although this is a limitation of the present study, the result indicates Feel should be stressed in marketing both pure pulp tissues and recycled paper tissues.

In conclusion, it is apparent that both Brand Name and Feel are important determinants of product quality perceptions for recycled paper. The implications of this study could be used for marketing green products, especially products made from recycled paper. This study suggests that future works should be continued to explore the complex relationships among constructs of consumer behavior concerning green products.


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Michiyo Aoki, Keio University


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1994

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