Skip to main content

Not Buying It: Big Restaurants Face Consumer Bias when Going Green

When large restaurant companies implement sustainability policies, customers seem to react in a contrary way—and their evaluation of those companies may actually diminish. In a new study from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR), researchers Michael Giebelhausen and Helen Chun examine this contrary behavior to see how large companies could gain the sustainability credibility they deserve.
Noting consumers' skepticism regarding large chains' sustainability initiatives, Giebelhausen and Chun, both of whom are assistant professors at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, conducted two experiments that found that customers seem to give more credibility to the green activities of small companies. A key finding is that the presence of that smaller competitor seems to create a halo, and customers' evaluations of the large company's green initiatives are improved.
"It turns out that the small company and the large company don't even have to be doing the same thing," said Chun. "When a small, credible competitor is initiating sustainable policies, a large company can likewise promote their own activities, even when they're different. Apparently, consumers have trouble believing that large companies are truly being green, even though we know that many chains are working hard on sustainability initiatives."

The study, "Reversing the Green Backlash: Why Large Hospitality Companies Should Welcome 'Credibly Green' Competitors," is available at no charge from the CHR. Assistance for the research study was provided by McDonald's USA, a CHR senior partner.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds