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Adopting Sustainable Innovation: What Makes Consumers Sign up to Green Electricity?

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Business Strategy and the Environment, Volume 20, Number 1, p.1-17 (2011)



This paper investigates what encourages consumers to adopt a green electricity tariff. When people decide to adopt an innovation, such as green electricity, they consider not only functionality, usability, costs and intended outcomes, but also what the innovation means to them, for example, the way it reflects their identity, image, memberships, values and norms. The study reviews the theoretical frameworks of innovation adoption and consumption, and cognitive and normative behaviour, relevant to consumer adoption of pro-environmental innovations, and develops a research framework. Through focus group discussions, a questionnaire survey with 103 respondents and an interview with 10 people, the study finds that consumers sympathetic to environmental issues do not necessarily adopt green electricity. This is due to lack of strong social norms and personal relevance, inconvenience of switching, uncertainty about the quality of green electricity and lack of accurate information. The implications of these findings for strategy, policy and future research are explored.