It’s too hard to be ‘green’: the theory of neutralisation

Micael-Lee Johnstone, LayPeng Tan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Studies have revealed that positive attitudes towards the environment have not necessarily translated into green consumption practices, despite consumers’ growing concern for the environment. This leads one to question consumers’ motives. Why do environmentally-conscious consumers choose less green options? The purpose of our study was to explore the attitude-behaviour gap. The key research question was: how do consumers justify their non-green consumption practices? Seven focus groups were conducted with consumers ranging in ages from 19-70. Six of the focus groups were two hours long, the seventh focus group was ninety minutes long. Advertisements were placed in the local newspaper, and participants were screened on the basis of purchase behaviour and attitudes towards the environment. Our findings revealed that one of the biggest barriers to being green is the perception that it is too hard to be green; “green” being an action, e.g., buying green products and/or participating in green activities. The theory of neutralisation was used to explain how people justify their norm-violating behaviours, i.e., “non-green behaviour”, based on the assumption that one is ethically obliged to protect the environment. Three key neutralisation techniques appeared in our findings: denial of responsibility, denial of injury (or benefit), and appeal to higher loyalties.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationANZMAC 2011
Subtitle of host publicationconference proceedings : Marketing in the age of consumerism : Jekyll or Hyde?
Place of PublicationPerth
PublisherANZMAC2011 Conference
Number of pages1
ISBN (Print)9780646563305
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAustralian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (2011) - Perth
Duration: 28 Nov 201130 Nov 2011


ConferenceAustralian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (2011)


  • green consumption behaviour
  • neutralisation
  • green perceptions


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