Consumer behaviour relates to issues concerning purchase, use and post-use (often described as end-of-life products) of products. According to Belz (2005), marketing literature has been primarily concerned with the first stage, the process and act of purchasing, whereas in the case of ethical consumption and environmental behaviour all three stages of consumer behaviour are important. In other words, ethical consumption considers not only economic but also ecological and social criteria during all these three stages, i.e. before the purchase, during the use and also after the use. In addition to purchase, also other possibilities related to purchasing process grow in importance, e.g. delaying a purchase, renting and leasing of prodcuts, sharing and buying together with others, or avoiding/refusing to purchase. (Belz 2005, 8, Peattie 2002, 88).
As mentioned before, it has been revealed in a number of researches (e.g. Uusitalo 1994, Heiskanen & Timonen 1996, Solér 1996 etc.) that environmentally friendly attitudes do not necessarily translate into environmentally friendly behaviour and concrete actions. This inconsistency can be called a value-action-gap, an attitude-behaviour-gap or an intention-behaviour-gap. This behavioral inconsistency concerns people´s behaviour in their various roles: as citizens, as employees or as consumers. There have been various attempts to find explanations to this: One reason might be people´s values. According to Follows and Jobber (in Pesonen 2008a), values can be classified into three categories: individual based, altruistic and conservative values. Individual values emphasize individual pleasure and achievements as motivators for one´s behaviour. It is relatively easy to believe that if this kind of values dominate in one´s value system, his potential respect for sustainability issues easily play only a minor role (if at all) in his actions, especially if these actions require some extra time or effort. For these people life style matters and purchasing decisions are usually based on other criteria than responsibility issues. Altruistic values, in turn, are based on empathy and welfare of others, too, as motivators and drivers in one´s behaviour. When it comes to environmentally friendly behaviour, the environmental benefits of one single individual are often seen so unimportant that in order to be motivated to behave in an environmentally benign way, one needs to believe that others do the same when the benefits grow in importance. The third category, conservative values, aim at stability and avoidance of changes and do not, therefore, support changes in (purchasing) behaviour either. Usually one´s value system is a combination of several values from each value category, and these values can even be in contradiction to each other. Behaviour (e.g. purchasing behaviour) is seen to be based on the strongest values in one´s value system or hierarchy. Although values are usually adapted already in childhood and remain often relatively unchanged, they may also be influenced later on. Drivers for value changes can be environmental disasters, education, behaviour of peer groups and friends etc.. (Pesonen 2008a, Solér 1996).).
Another explanation for the value-action-gap could be that people are not aware of the influence of their own behaviour in the environment, or they do not believe it is important. People also tend to believe that their own contribution is not important if others do not contribute as well. (Uusitalo 1993). They may even lack information of environmentally friendly products (European Comission 2008). Concerning the connection between environmental knowledge and environmentally friendly purchasing habits, there are numbers of researches with various results. For example Heiskanen and Timonen (1996) have discovered that the influence of following environmental information and the level of environmental knowledge on environmentally friendly consumption is only rather weak. According to e.g. Solér (1996), however, environmentally responsible purchases of private consumers are supported by reliable and guiding information because most people want to make rational choices if environmentally friendly products are available. Despite of numbers of researches, decisive solution has not been found. Therefore it can be claimed that explanations depend more or less on the product and situation.
In addition to values, purchasing decisions are also influenced by attitudes. Attitudes, in turn, can have both, cognitive as well as emotional components. In case of ethical consumption, the consumer must first be aware of the influences of his/her purchasing decisions in environmental issues. He/she must also know about environmentally friendly products and their qualities. In other words, in order to be motivated to make an ethical purchase decision, the consumer must have positive cognitive attitude towards environmentally friendly products. Purchasing decisions are not, however, based only on cognitive reasoning but also on emotional attitudes. They determine e.g. the intensity of the attitude in question. Marketing can be aimed at both components: cognitive attitudes can be supported by giving facts and information on environmental friendly products and their qualities in comparison to conventional ones whereas emotional attitudes are best supported by means of emotional and image marketing. A positive purchase intention requires also certain willingness and ability to act in an intended way. In practise this means that a positive purchase intention can arise only if there is first a need for the product, the product is not in contradiction with consumer´s values, the consumer has positive cognitive and emotional attitudes towards the very product and is able and willing to make the purchase. A positive purchase intention does not, however, necessarily lead to a purchase decision. Typical hindrances might be e.g. lack of time, money, information or support. (Kollmuss & Agyeman 2002 in Pesonen 2008a). Other challenges like compromises between environmental issues and other product qualities are discussed in more detail later on.
Purchasing decision processes can be studied from various points of view. One option is to start from demand behaviour which forms a certain framework for consumer behaviour and different purchasing processes. It can be said that purchasing decisions are, on the one hand, based on emotional, value-laden impulses and, on the other hand, on reasonable and logical consideration related to needed or wanted products. Based on them, four situations can be distinguished depending on the depth of the emotional and the cognitive involvement.
As seen in the picture, when both cognitive and emotional involvement are low, purchasing is based more or less on habitual decision making. In practice this means products that we buy out of habit, out of routine, without much thought. (Schaltegger et al. 2003, 210). Gronow and Warde (2001 in Lampinen 2005) agree by saying that a significant part of consumption is based on comfortability, habits and daily life routines. Examples of routined purchasing could be e.g. groceries and other necessities. In that case consumers keep on purchasing products they are used to, that are familiar to them and that have been satisfactory. When making this kind of routine purchases consumers do not necessarily pay any attention to environmental or ethical issues, at least when they are not used to do so. In case of habitual decision making, consumers can usually be persuaded to consider new brands or products only with help of strong incentives. On the other hand, when a habitual consumer gets used to buying environmentally friendlier products or brands, he is usually rather loyal in his behaviour.
When the cognitive involvement is still low but emotional involvement grows in importance, one can speak about spontaneous buying, or purchases that are based on feelings or the customer´s mood at the time of the purchase. Only little time is spent thinking about the purchase or its consequences. From the environmental point of view, impulsive decisions presuppose that the prospect of environmentally friendly purchases cause pleasure and is seen as a means of status, vitality, innovation or social recognition (see also individually perceived benefits vs. costs of purchases.). Examples of impulsive purchase can vary from person to person. Some consumers tend to buy e.g. clothing and accessories "ad hoc", whereas others spend time and effort to plant their purchases in advance. Typical spontaneous purchases may be e.g. sweets, lottery, cinema etc. Usually it is typical for impulsive purchases that they are relatively inexpensive.
Classical definition of purchasing process (see below) is, generally speaking, based on high cognitive involvement. In both cases, high cognitive involvement together with either low or high emotional involvement, the demand and want for goods is defined in advance, information seeking and comparison of different alternatives is based on rational criteria. In the case of low emotional involvement, in other words limited decision processes, consumers usually concentrate on a restricted number of alternatives. Criteria for choice include a relatively small amount of trademarks, prices and clearly defined quality advantages. From the viewpoint of marketing environmentally friendly products, the focus should be on rational information and reliable facts.(Schaltegger et al. 2003, 210-212).
Extensive demand, i.e. when both cognitive and emotional involvement are high, involve mostly purchases of high-quality (and often also high price) products. In case of this kind of decision making, customers usually spend time and effort to gather information on different alternatives, compare them to each other, evaluate the potential benefits and costs related to them etc. The classical purchasing process described next, represents best this particular form of demand behaviour.
Consumption is not a single activity, but a series of activities that has traditionally been described as the buying or purchasing process which can be seen as follows:
Ethical consumption, however, can not any more be viewed simply in terms of purchasing and the choice between products. Instead, consumers may make a variety of choices concerning also the way they use, maintain, replace and dispose products. They can also consider and end up to purchase and consumption avoidance, decide not to buy or even to boycott something for environmental or otherwise ethical reasons. In the following, each step will be discussed in more detail.
Human needs and wants are a complex of issues ranging from basic necessities such as food and water to most sophisticated needs for e.g. status or spiritual fulfillment. Needs are translated into wants which can be seen as specific means of satisfying a certain need - or several of them. While needs are relatively enduring, wants can be extremely transitory. One of the traditional, if not even classical, ways to explain how needs and wants influence purchasing habits and other behaviour is Maslow´s need hierarchy. Physiological needs cover the basic necessities of life such as food, drink, clothing, warmth and shelter. In developed countries these needs account for a relatively small proportion of all purchases but are still dominating in the majority of consumers in poorer countries. In developed countries most consumers can choose how and by which means the fulfill their basic needs: they can choose between conventionally produced food, organic, fair trade or local, they can even afford to refuse to buy or boycott products and producers they want to avoid. In addition to conventional safety needs such as physical safety related to robberies etc., additional new issues have emerged due to e.g. chemical residues, food additives, gen-manipulation, weather disasters caused by climate change etc. This can lead to a demand for better product safety, more secure packaging, use of renewable energies among others. (Peattie 2002, 86). The higher levels, social, esteem and self-actualisation needs are very essential when it comes to ethical consumption. Their role and meaning are tackled in more detail in chapter Consumer Benefits/Costs.
As mentioned before, there are various researches and their results related to the importance of environmental knowledge and relevant information for ethical purchasing. Even though all researchers do not fully agree, it may be claimed that reliable information on the relationship between products and the environment is, generally speaking, relevant. Because environmentally friendliness and other sustainability issues are hard, if not impossible, for individual consumers to prove, consumers have no other choice but either to trust or suspect the information they get. One way to convince customers of the reliability of environmental performance of products is to use different official certifications and eco-labels. Product information can and must, naturally, be distributed also by product specifications, but one should also keep in mind that there are already several obligatory issues that have to mentioned on the packaging where the space can therefore be limited. By what means and what kind of information, be it either mass marketing or more professional sources, consumers can be achieved, depend on the segment and kind of consumers. (Pesonen 2008b). These issues are discussed in more detail later on.
This phase in the purchasing process is most probably the one where environmental information and sustainability marketing have an important role to play. Information can either be a kind of "mega-marketing" which aims at enhance customer awareness and attitudes towards environmental issues as well as influencing the public opinion. These matters are discussed in more detail later on in sub-chapter Transformational Marketing. What is meant by environmental information here, in turn, is more or less related to sustainability marketing, and more precisely, marketing to individuals, private consumers, rather than B2B.
What kind of information should be used, then, to achieve potential customers? As we know, information based on facts and scientific reasoning, test results etc. support best the cognitive decision making whereas emotional involvement is supported best by means of emotional or image marketing based on feelings. Situational mood and impulsive purchasing decisions can also be appealed by setting and atmosphere of the shop, tempting smells etc. Traditionally we tend to think that rational reasoning is mostly used when searching information for purchase of high value and high price whereas buying cheaper products often is less well planned in advance. These purchases can be either daily routine or quick impulses, but in any case, not too much time or effort is usually spent to make the decision. Even though the classic purchasing process introduced here claims that the need or want emerges before the customer starts searching information on alternatives, the want can also emerge based on information or awakening of feelings after experiencing appealing marketing messages. In other words, the process describes better purchasing decisions based on cognitive reasoning rather than emotional involvement although emotions very often are also included in customers evaluations, regardless of whether they are aware of it or not. Peattie 2002, Pesonen 2008b).
Searching, evaluating and accepting different kinds of information depends on individual values and attitudes. As we know, people tend search and accept information that supports their previous perceptions and knowledge. Information seeking and evaluation of information sources are discussed later on in relation to segments. The examples of different attempts to make consumer segments based on environmental issues have something in common: it may be claimed that how ever the segments are differentiated from each other, the active consumers with high environmental awareness, high emotional and cognitive involvement in environmental issues, high level of knowledge and broad understanding of environmental matters together with strong willingness to contribute, are usually very selective also when it comes to information searching. They use their own information sources that they trust and are very seldom achieved by means of e.g. mass marketing. (Pesonen 2008b)
According to Peattie (2002), marketing theory has tended to assume that where a need is translated into a want and is supported by ability and possibility to buy, then a purchase will take place. Kotler (2004), in turn, claims that when choosing between two or more product alternatives the customer takes the offer which he assumes offers the highest perceived value, i.e. the biggest difference between all the benefits and all the costs of the competing product alternatives. (Kotler/Armstrong 2004, 17). Important here is that this perceived value is very individual, it is a personal evaluation of an individual customer. The evaluation is influenced by many things like personal values, beliefs and attitudes, life style (present or desired), purchasing situation, purchasing resources and possibilities (e.g. lack of time, knowledge or purchasing power, or, on the other hand, availability, lack of information etc.). The value might also be based on incorrect information. What are these costs and benefits mentioned here, then? Belz (2005) mentions four different kinds of product benefits: The basic benefit is naturally the qualities and function of the product. What kind of a need or want is it supposed to fullfill and how well does it suceed in it? In addition to the product itself there are also additional benefits that are less obvious, often even regarded as less rational and therefore more difficult to reveal. Such benefits may be e.g. self-esteem, recognition of others and edification from do-it-yourself or expressing one´s identity. It has been said that one of the present and near future trends is that consumers more and more tend to express themselves and their identity by means of consumption, not only by wearing a certain type of clothes, listen to a certain type of music but also by buying specific brands and and trade marks that reflect one´s lifestyle, either the existing or a desired one. Identity may also be built on and expressed by hobbies, housing, different status symbols like cars, boats, exclusive hand bags etc., even food (e.g. vegetarian, macro-biotic etc.). Life style issues and therefore also purchasing decisions are very often influenced by others, too. In addition to public opinion and social pressure an individual consumer is also effected by his family, friends, peer groups, media and marketing etc. Again, one should keep in mind that e.g. the influence of recognition of others is very individual and may vary from one situation to an other. In addition to the potential benefits, customers often evaluate the costs, too, related to the intended purchase. The product price is probably the most obvious although not the only one. The purchase itself may cause addtitional costs e.g. for searching a product, gathering and comparing information on qualities and prices (at least time and effort) etc., especially when it is a question of durables. Costs can also occur during the use, e.g. energy consumption of different electric devise or cars etc. In some cases a product may cause costs also in the after-use phase if the customer has to pay something e.g. for taking it to a landfill. (Belz 2005, 9-10). From the seller point of view, big questions are "Can one´s self esteem and the perceived recognition of others be supported by ethical purchasing decisions? How to do it? Who are the people who value ecological benefits high enough? How can they be reached? How to increase the importance of perceived benefits of environmentally friendly or otherwise ethically produced products? How to minimize the perceived costs?
As we know, the purchasing process and evaluation of alternatives of durables differs essentially from the one concerning e.g. simultanious decisions and purchases that are made based on routines and habits. Therefore also the means and possibilities of the marketer to support customers´ ethical purchasing decisions are different.
In addition to conventional purchasing habits, the significance of other buying alternatives has been growing in importance. A traditional alternative to purchasing new products is , for example, to buy second-hand. There are also a growing number of manufacturers who use recycled materials - partly or completely - in their production or, possibly, base their whole business idea on refurbishing or converting products to be used for an other purpose than the original. Environmentally aware customers may also prefer buying certain products (often relatively expencive durables that are not used too often or regularly) together with others and share it with them. They may also prefer renting or leasing a product instead of buying it. For the manufacturer this gives an opportunity to lengthen the life span of their products through maintenance and repair. In many cases there may also be a possibility to reuse parts and components or materials of disposed products. Sometimes environmentally friendly solutions require wider scope of thinking. Consumers might consider, for example, to fulfill their certain needs by services instead of buying physical products. Or, eventually, they might refuse to buy at all. (Peattie 2002, 87).
Buying second hand: By means of buying second hand, an ethical consumer can fulfill his needs, both factual need and the emotional satisfaction of "doing good" without causing more material and energy consumption in the production phase. (Peattie 2002, 88). For some consumers it may also be a way to refuse to support the current careless and irresponsible production and consumption system. Different kinds of re-use and recycling systems also meet the requirements of e.g. EU recommendations to cut down material and energy consumption. It may be claimed that different kinds of new business models based on re-use and recycling systems are nowadays one of the fastest growing sectors - together with clean-tech of course - in industrialized countries. Eston and Winston call all kinds of re-use, recycling and material saving systems traditional priorities which includes the idea that even though these kinds of systems are of essential importance in reducing environmental impacts, they are not enough alone. We need more powerful and more effective tools, we need to re-design our infrastructure and way of living, too. (See chapters Corporate Sustainability Strategies: Paradigm Shift and Creating Value through Product Recovery).
Borrowing, hiring and leasing: One way to avoid causing more need to energy and material use, is to borrow, hire or lease or product, e.g. a car or a machine, instead of buying an own one. One alternative might also be buying a product together with others and share. Benefits for the customer may be the ability to avoid costs and care for owning expensive devices, the customer can be freed from maintenance and repair, storaging and guarding it – as well as from their costs. From the manufacturer or supplier point of view, hiring and leasing possibilities motivate the actors to lengthen the life span of products because the invoicing is based on using time, not on the amount of sold products. It also helps to reduce manufacturing costs, including e.g. energy and material consumption, as well as waste management costs. It also motivates the supplier to recycle used products and their parts and components and either use them in his own production again or sell them further to someone else. (Pesonen 2008b). There are, however, some risks, too, related to renting or sharing products: The user may use it in a more irresponsible and careless way when he does not own it. Sometimes it may also be a question of privacy. People do not want to share things that they regard as personal.
Delaying purchase and non-purchase: One of the basic questions related to ethical consumption is whether the need is real and/or acute. Can the purchase be delayed or can it be avoided completely? (Peattie 2002, 88). In industrial countries, it can be claimed, the needs are mostly based on wants and desires rather than not-avoidable basic needs. Even though the need can be regarded as a basic one, e.g. hunger or thirst, consumers usually have numbers of products and brands to fulfill their needs. One should also keep in mind that purchasing habits are a very essential part of life styles and building one´s identity.
Alternative products and services: Fortunately there are numbers of consumers who pay attention to the environmental friendliness and ethical sustainability of products and services, and their number is growing. (See Ethical Consumption). There is also a clear trend that consumers tend to require more high-quality products which a longer life span and maintenance services available. (Peattie 2002, 88). As mentioned before, the aim of ethical consumers is to take environmental issues in concern in their purchasing decisions by delaying or refusing to buy (see below) or by requiring ethical and environmentally friendly products and services. Buying criteria are not only focused on products but also on retailers, producers, service suppliers, whole market chains etc. An even more effective way to cut down material and energy consumption as well emissions and waste caused by production and traffic, is to fulfill one´s needs and wants by buying services instead of physical products. The critical question may be, for example, do I want a vacuum cleaner or a tidy home, do I want to own a car or do I just have to get from one place to another. The idea of changing consumption habits and life styles are based on Eston and Winston´s idea of so called New priorities which may include anything from changing purchasing and consumption habits to re-design of infrastructure, technological solutions (e.g. emission-free traffic and housing), distant work etc. More information on replacing physical products with services see chapter Corporate Sustainability Strategy: Dematerializing by Services.
From the retailer point of view, environmental issues that customers pay attention to cover various matters, e.g. packaging, product sortiment, location of the premises, energy consumption, transportation etc. Their environmental impacts can be direct or indirect. Direct environmental impacts can include e.g. transportation, warehousing (especially cooled transportation chains for e.g. diary, frozen products etc.), waste management, cooling, heating etc. The more visible part for customers, however, are the products and brands and their packaging, whose environmental impacts can be seen as indirect impact from the retailer point of view. Nevertheless, the product politics of retailers is an effective way to encourage customers to behave in a certain way. Hopfenbeck (1992, 252-253) distinguishes two different strategy options for retailers: push and pull depending on who the actions and requirements are aimed at, suppliers or customers. This means that retailers can set requirements to their suppliers concerning environmental and social responsibility. Ethical and environmental issues may have a decisive role in selecting suppliers and producers. They can also, at least to some extent, influence the product design and packaging of their suppliers. The aim of the so called pull strategy, in turn, is to support and enhance the environmental awareness and attitudes of customers. The most effective way to do that would be environmentally friendly product sortiment, pricing that favours (or at least does not harm) environmentally friendly alternatives as well as successful point-of-sale display. Other ways could be e.g. active promotion of environmentally friendly products, arranging satisfactory recycling possibilities, delivering information on environmental matters etc. Products and their environmental qualities as a part of operational marketing tools are discussed in sub-chapter Sustainability Marketing Mix.
Having evaluated different alternatives and before making their purchasing decision, consumers may have some other questions to answer, e.g. How much time and money there is availabe to spend on the product, where to buy, how much and when to buy. (Peattie 2002, 88, Schaltegger 2003,212). The questions where may refer to several points e.g. whether discount, specialty shops or the Internet are preferred. On the one hand, ethical customers may want to avoid or boycott certain retailers, service suppliers, restaurants, holiday resorts etc. for ethical or environmental reasons. On the other hand, environmentally friendly products may not be easily available, either retailers have not taken them into their sortiments, or the products are not too easy to find in the shop. Lacking availability has often been mentioned when searching for reasons for limited amounts of ethical purchases. In some cases products are sold only in special shops or by a limited number of retailers or available only occasionally and thus, purchasing often requires too much time and effort from customers. (Pesonen 2008). "How much to buy" refers to the tendency to buy as little as possible. In case of e.g. buying energy, there might not be any difference between so called ethical and conventional consumers: both aim at reduced energy bills. In addition to this, however, in the very case of energy, for example, ethical consumers may require their energy suppliers to offer renewable energy. An other difference might be that ethical consumers avoid producing waste and buy therefore only the amount they know they need. Timing of purchases can be influenced by a variety of factors. For example, environmentally aware consumers may want to wait for a version to be launched that has an improved environmental performance (e.g. hybrid or electric cars). They also may want to delay the purchase when possible. From the producer point of view timing can be a critical factor for a new product or service: When a company makes for example an environmental innovation and launches a new product on the market, the customers may not be ready yet for the product. The attitudes may not support new approaches or new way of thinking. Ethical or environmentally friendly products and services may be launched too early – or too late. Someone else may already have launched a competing solution and then the benefits of being the first in the market are gone. (Belz 2005, Peattie 2002, 88).
In case of purchases based on cognitive decision making, especially cocerning rather expensive durables, customers usually evaluate the benefits they are supposed to gain by purchasing a certain product and compare them to the costs they have to pay. Costs are here a somewhat larger definition than just the price. They also include a) costs of purchase, in other words the time and effort one must spend to find a certain product as well as the costs of getting to the point-of-sale (if one must use a car, bus or other vehicles) and the extra costs in case they want to have the product delivered directly to their homes, b) costs of use refer, naturally, to all the costs that the customer has during the use. For example, when someone buys a new car, he also needs to buy fuel and pay different kinds of taxes and other payments to be allowed to drive it; or in case of a washing machine or any other electric device the consumer has to pay for the electricity the device uses. Sometimes consumers have to pay something also to get rid of a product they don´t need any more, e.g. landfill fees or recycling payments (which are usually included in the price of the new one) etc. The same way, also benefits include more details than just the right function the product has been bought for. The type and impact of all benefits depend, naturally, on the product and the individual customer. There are numbers of products that have a certain impact in customer´s self esteem - may it be conscious or not. A good example could be all luxory products or trendy and fashionable products. On the other hand, buying environmentally friendly or otherwise more ethical products may support the self-esteem of some groups of people. There are also lots of people whose purchasing decisions are influenced by attitudes and opinions of the others, e.g. teenagers. This impact of others is often unconscious but goes often hand in hand with self-esteem, too. Consumption and using certain types or trade marks of products can also be regarded as means of expressing oneself and one´s lifestyle. It may also reflect the peer group the person belongs to, or wants to belong. One has to remember, however, that all these perceived benefits and costs are very individual and may be influenced also by other issues like current incomes, previous experiences and the purchasing situation. It is also worth considering that customer expectations are not necessarily objective or realistic. In case of environmentally friendly products one important issue that influence the purchasing decision is the evaluation of the impact individual purchases may have, in other words, the more the customer believes that his purchases really play a role, the more willing he usually is to buy 'green' products.
Individually perceived benefit- cost- balance. Belz 2005
The basic assumption is that consumers choose the alternative that offers the highest perceived net benefit, i.e. the best balance between benefits and costs. As mentioned above, this model relies on rational decision making, even though it includes also certain affective factors like self-esteem. It is, however, usefull to bear in mind that purchasing decisions only seldom are purely based on rational thinking only. Even in case of purchasing expensive durables decisions are often influenced by affective factors, too.
An essential difference between environmentally aware and conventional consumers can be found in post-purchase behaviour.Schaltegger et al. (2003, 212) ask: "Does the consumer wish to obtain the right of disposal, through ownership, or is use all that is required, through leasing or sharing, where the rights relating to disposal are not acquired?" Based on this question the decision can be made on wheter consumer demand can be met through offering material goods or by means of various kinds of services. Peattie describes the post-purchase product use and disposal situation based on Jacoby et al. as follows:
Post-purchase product use and disposal (Jacoty et al 1977 in Peattie 2002, 85).
Often the biggest favors for environment can be done during the using-phase of products. The life time of products can be lengthened e.g. by maintenance and repairing, although it is nowadays too often cheaper to buy a new one instead of repairing. Often e.g. home electronics are not made to last long, or versions get out of date rapidly like mobile phones and computers. Updating services may help to some extent, but sooner or later the consumer has to think of getting a new one. Due to the EU producer responsibility, items like household machines, car tires, medicine etc. can be brought back to the retailer who is responsible for delivering them back to the producer who, when possible, uses the parts and components again. Or, alternatively, serviceable consumer durables are sold to recycling business. Sometimes producers organize different kinds of product take-back campaigns to promote their image of environmentally responsible producer. For example in Finland, Nokia takes used mobile phones back to be sold again in developing countries, Hackman, a producer of kitchen goods, had an campaign where customers could bring their old used pots and pans back when buying a new one. Sotka, a furniture company, promised to come and take old mattresses away when delivering a new one for the customer. What happened to the take-back mattresses is, however, unknown. Other items than product take-back goods can also be given or sold for second hand dealers or directly to another private customer. Sometimes products can also be used for a new purpose: Numbers of new companies have emerged based on the idea of converting products to be used for another purpose. In addition to business life, this can also be made by individual consumers. There are uncountable examples of guide books and internet-sites that offer advice how to find new purposes for end-of-life products.
When it comes to end-of-life products and waste, an inquiry was made in 27 EU-countries to find out facts concerning consumer behaviour. For example, respondents were presented with a list of nine actions and asked which of them they had done in the past month. On average, a European citizen has taken 2.6 measures i.e. done nearly three things for environmental reasons in the past month. Separating of household waste for recycling was the action that turned out to be the most common one, done by 59% of respondents. The second biggest amount of respondents claimed to have cut down their energy consumption (47%) whereas 37% of respondents had reduced their water consumption. Other actions were to have reduced the consumption of disposable items (e.g. plastic bags etc.) 30%, to have chosen an environmentally friendly way o f traveling (by foot, bicycle, public transport) 28%, chosen locally produced products or groceries 21%, bought environmentally friendly products marked with an environmental label 17%, used private car less 17% as well, and finally none of these 9% with 2% don´t know -answers. How nationality, education and person´s other attitudes influenced the answers and how they relate to other environmental behaviour can be seen in Eurobarometer 2008. (See chapter Ethical Consumption).