How Sustainability Claims and Certificates Impact Purchase Intention – The Case of the FSC Seal for Sustainable Forestry



The increasing attention to environmental issues has inspired companies to claim sustainability for their production process. Variance in the extent to which these claims are justified has created considerable skepticism among consumers. Certification seals could mitigate or even reverse the effects of this skepticism. This study argues that the impact of seals on purchase intention is mediated by consumer perceptions of firm conscientiousness and of product quality. The hypotheses are tested in three experiments using the FSC seal for sustainable forestry. Its positive impact on purchase intention appears to be largely mediated by perceptions of company conscientiousness and of product quality. This effect is more robust than the effect of perceived sustainability on purchase intention and appears to occur particularly among a more skeptical audience. This finding suggests that certification seals, if used appropriately, have the potential to successfully counter consumer skepticism about firms’ sustainable production. At the moment this abstract is written, a third study is running in the ERIM Lab where skepticism is experimentally induced. Right now, we hope that this experiment corroborates the conclusions drawn from the two studies so far.