Communicating Sustainable Initiatives: A quantitative study of the impact of using carbon offsetting claims in advertising to consumers
Abstract: While carbon offsetting has been a common practice for companies as a method to mitigate their environmental impact, there has been relatively little theoretical research on whether the communication of it in advertising has an impact on consumers, and if yes, in what ways. This thesis aims to fill this research gap by testing the effects generated from using carbon offsetting claims in advertising to consumers. The manipulations used in the study are the level of emissions (high versus low) of the company, the level of product involvement, and the detail level (high versus low) of the carbon offsetting claims. A quantitative experiment, based on different ad manipulations for an aviation company and a railway company, was conducted with 338 participants to test whether the use of carbon offsetting claims lead to positive effects regarding ad credibility, ad memorability, ad attitude, brand attitude, purchase intention, and sustainability perception for the company. All in all, the results show that the use of carbon offsetting claims in advertisements, irrespective of the level of company emissions, the level of product involvement, or the detail level in the claims, does not lead to any significant brand-related or sustainability-related effects. This finding contributes with insights for both theoretical research and marketing practitioners.
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