Driving adoption: The symbolic value of sustainable innovations

Ernst Harm Noppers

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    Sustainable innovations like electric vehicles and smart energy systems could reduce environmental problems. However, their environmental success depends strongly on whether consumers actually adopt these innovations. Although their relatively low environmental impact may promote adoption, it is generally assumed that the instrumental drawbacks of these innovations, such as the limited range of electric vehicles, are an important barrier for adoption. In this dissertation it is argued that consumers may not only adopt sustainable innovations for its instrumental attributes (what it can do for people) and environmental attributes (impact on the environment), but also for its symbolic attributes, that is, what adopting a sustainable innovation can say about the owner. Results of six studies consistently show that evaluations of the symbolic attributes are indeed an important predictor of the adoption of sustainable innovations, next to the evaluations of the instrumental attributes and environmental attributes. Yet, people seem not to acknowledge the importance of symbolic attributes: when explicitly asked, consumers indicated that status and identity considerations do hardly affect their adoption decisions.
    Interestingly, symbolic attributes better predicted the adoption of sustainable innovations when people believed that these innovations have some instrumental drawbacks and when people believed that few others would consider adoption. Moreover, people who identify as early adopters are more positive about the symbolic attributes of sustainable innovations than people who identify as late adopters.
    Together, the studies in this dissertation suggest that targeting the symbolic attributes of sustainable innovations may be an effective strategy to promote the adoption of sustainable innovations.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    • Steg, Linda, Supervisor
    • Keizer, Kees, Co-supervisor
    Award date22-Nov-2018
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Print ISBNs978-94-034-1076-0
    Electronic ISBNs978-94-034-1075-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

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