Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 407–421 | Cite as

Conformity and the Demand for Environmental Goods

  • Fredrik Carlsson
  • Jorge H. García
  • Åsa Löfgren


The existing literature on eco-labeling and green consumerism has been framed within a classical market context where price and quality are the drivers of consumer choice. However, it seems possible that consumers are also concerned about the choices made by other consumers. In fact, it is unclear that people’s consumption decisions are made independently of social context. For instance, under the desire to conform to certain social norms—or in the presence of status concerns—some individuals may be willing to pay a higher price premium for green products the more widespread green consumerism is in society. We test this hypothesis using a choice experiment where the respondents were asked to choose among coffee products varying with respect to their share of ecological beans, share of fair trade beans, and price. Three treatments were used, differing only in the information given about the choices made by other consumers. We find different responses to the treatments across individuals and we can only confirm our hypothesis of conformity for women, although men appear to have stronger preferences for ecological coffee than women have.


Conformity Choice experiments Environmental goods 

JEL Classification

C90 D12 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Akerlof G, Kranton R (2000) Economics and identity. Q J Econ 115: 715–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albrecht J, Björklund A, Vroman S (2003) Is there a glass ceiling in sweden?. J Lab Econ 21: 145–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alpizar F, Carlsson F, Martinsson P (2003) Using choice experiments for non-market valuation. Econ Issues 8: 83–110Google Scholar
  4. Alpizar F, Carlsson F, Johansson-Stenman O (2005) How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?. J Econ Behav Organ 56: 405–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alpizar F, Carlsson F, Johansson-Stenman O (2008) Anonymity, reciprocity, and conformity: evidence from voluntary contributions to a national park in costa rica. J Public Econ 92: 1047–1060CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Amacher G, Koskela E, Ollikainen M (2004) Environmental quality competition and eco-labeling. J Environ Econ Manag 47: 284–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Andreoni J, Vesterlund L (2001) Which is the fair sex? Gender differences in altruism. Q J Econ 116: 293–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Arnot C, Boxall P, Cash S (2006) Do ethical consumers care about price? A revealed preference analysis of fair trade coffee purchases. Can J Agri Econ 54: 555–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bacon C (2005) Confronting the coffee crisis: can fair trade, organic, and specialty coffees reduce small-scale farmer vulnerability in northern nicaragua?. World Dev 33: 491–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bardsley N, Sausgruber R (2005) Conformity and reciprocity in public good provision. J Econ Psych 26: 664–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bernheim B (1994) A theory of conformity. J Polit Econ 102: 841–877CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bjorner TB, Hansen LG, Russell CS (2004) Environmental labeling and consumers’ choice—an empirical analysis of the effect of the nordic swan. J Environ Econ Manag 47: 411–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blend JR, Van Ravenswaay EO (1999) Measuring consumer demand for ecolabeled apples. Amer J Agr Econ 81: 1072–1077CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carlsson F, Frykblom P, Lagerkvist CJ (2005) Using cheap-talk as a test of validity in choice experiments. Econ Lett 89: 147–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carlsson F, Frykblom P, Lagerkvist CJ (2007) Consumer benefits of labels and bans on gm foods—choice experiments with swedish consumers. Amer J Agr Econ 89: 152–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carlsson F, Martinsson P (2001) Do hypothetical and actual marginal willingness to pay differ in choice experiments?. J Environ Econ Manag 41: 179–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carlsson F, Martinsson P (2003) Design techniques for stated preference methods in health economics. Heal Econ 12: 281–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carsson R, Groves T (2007) Incentive and informational properties of preferences questions. Environ Resour Econ 37: 181–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cremer H, Thisse J-F (1999) On the taxation of polluting products in a differentiated industry. Europ Econ Rev 43: 575–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Croson R, Gneezy U (2009) Gender differences in preferences. J Econ Lit 47: 448–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Durevall D (2007) Competition in the swedish coffee market 1978–2002. Int J Ind Organ 25: 721–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. European Coffee Federation (2009) European coffee report 2008. Rijswijk. Available at
  23. Frey B, Meier S (2004) Social comparisons and pro-social behavior: testing conditional cooperation in a field experiment. Amer Econ Rev 94: 1717–1722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Greene W (2000) Econometric analysis. Prentice-Hall, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
  25. Hanemann M (1984) Welfare evaluations in contingent valuation experiments with discrete responses. Amer J Agr Econ 66: 332–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heinrich J, Boyd R, Bowles S, Camerer C, Fehr E, Gintis H (2001) In search of homo economicus: behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Amer Econ Rev 91: 73–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huang CL (1996) Consumer preferences and attitudes towards organically grown produce. Europ Rev Agr Econ 23: 331–342Google Scholar
  28. Huber J, Zwerina K (1996) The importance of utility balance in efficient choice designs. J Mark Res 33: 307–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. International Coffee Organization ICO (2005) Overview of the coffee market, document ICC-93-5. Available at
  30. Johansson-Stenman O, Carlsson F, Daruvala D (2002) Measuring future grandparents’ preferences for equality and relative standing. Econ J 112: 362–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Johansson-Stenman O, Svedsäter H (2008) Measuring hypothetical bias in choice experiments: the importance of cognitive consistency. BE J Econ Anal Poli 8, Article 41Google Scholar
  32. Johnston RJ, Wessells CR, Donath H, Asche F (2001) Measuring consumer preferences for ecolabeled seafood: an international comparison. J Agr Resou Econ 26: 20–39Google Scholar
  33. Ladenburg J, Olsen SB (2008) Gender specific starting point bias in choice experiments: evidence from an empirical study. J Environ Econ Manag 56: 275–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Levitt S, List J (2007) What do laboratory experiments measuring social preferences reveal about the real world?. J Econ Pers 21: 153–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lewin B, Giovannucci D, Varangis P (2004) Coffee markets: new paradigms in global supply and demand. Agriculture and rural development Discussion Paper 3. World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  36. List J (2004) Young, selfish and male: field evidence of social preferences. Econ J 114: 121–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. List J, Sinha P, Taylor M (2005) Using choice experiments to value non-market goods and services: evidence from field experiments. Adv Econ Anal Pol, 6, Article 2Google Scholar
  38. Loureiro ML, Lotade J (2005) Do fair trade and eco-labels in coffee wake up the consumer conscience?.  Ecolog Econ 53: 129–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Louviere J, Hensher D, Swait J (2000) Stated choice methods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lusk J, Schroeder T (2004) Are choice experiments incentive compatible? A test with quality differentiated beef-steaks. Amer J Agr Econ 85: 840–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Manski CF (2000) Economic analysis of social interactions. J Econ Pers 14: 115–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nimon W, Beghin J (1999) Are eco-labels valuable? Evidence from the apparel industry. Amer J Agr Econ 81: 801–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shang J, Croson R (2009) Field experiments in charitable contribution: the impact of social influence on the voluntary provision of public goods. Econ J 199: 1422–1439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Solnick S, Hemenway D (1998) Is more always better? A survey on positional concerns. J Econ Behav Organ 37: 373–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Solnick S, Hemenway D (2005) Are positional concerns stronger in some domains than in others. Amer Econ Rev 95: 147–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sterner T (2003) Policy instruments for environmental and natural resource management. RFF Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  47. Swait J, Louviere J (1993) The role of the scale parameter in the estimation and comparison of multinomial logit models. J Mark Res 30: 305–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Teisl MF, Roe B, Hicks RL (2002) Can eco-labels tune a market? Evidence from dolphin-safe labeling. J Environ Econ Manag 43: 339–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Train K (2003) Discrete choice methods with simulation. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Venkatesan M (1966) Experimental study of consumer behavior conformity and independence. J Mark Res 3: 384–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zelezny L, Chua P, Aldrich C (2000) Elaborating on gender differences in environmentalism. J Soc Issues 56: 443–457CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fredrik Carlsson
    • 1
  • Jorge H. García
    • 2
  • Åsa Löfgren
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsPontificia Universidad JaverianaBogotaColombia

Personalised recommendations