Consumers' environmental concern: Are we really tapping true concern that relates to environmentally ethic behaviour?


In this paper we will present some results of several studies carried out in Denmark in which different versions of an indicator for environmental concern were used. These results allow to analyse the relationships between different aspects of environmental concern. But, and here lies the primary objective of this paper, they also illustrate the difficulty of measuring environmental concern in a reliable and valid way, given respondents' contradictory answers and disappointingly low knowledge as well as often weak relationships between environmental concern and self-reported behaviour. The interest in this mainly methodological approach is a result of the observed discrepancy between attitudes, intentions, and behaviour: 83% of the respondents in a recently published survey in Denmark claimed to be willing to buy environmentally ethic products (Politiken 1990). But only 2% of the Danish population do so consequently with regard to, e.g., organic foods. And this observation does not seem to be unique for Denmark. After some introductory remarks, the theoretical conceptualization and substantive operationalization of environmental concern is described in section 2 of the paper. The different dimensions and their relationships to each other will be briefly explained. Section 3 is devoted to empirical results from several surveys in Denmark and will discuss the typical difficulties one seems inevitably confronted with in parsimonious survey research on environmental concern. Section 4 concludes with a discussion of the findings and an outlook on the need for further research and refinement of measurement instruments.

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