A growing population can impact the demand and supply of food, fuel, consumer products and services, and other ecosystems, and thereby the marketing industry which is closely associated with the production and consumption of these products and services [1
]. Also, the effects of population growth lead to an increase in waste generation. Global material resource use in 2030 is expected to be twice that of 2010 [1
], while the most recent United Nations forecast suggests that the global population is likely to exceed 11 billion by the end of the 21st century [2
]. With 7.2 billion people today, the planet is already struggling to meet humanity's demands for land, food and other natural resources, and absorb its waste. In the last four decades, studies dealing with awareness regarding the limits of natural resources pressure business organizations in various sectors to promote innovation in their conceptualization, design, and production methods, until the last stage of product lifecycle [3
]. The research on perceived value for circular business models and environmentally sustainable consumption and production (SCP) becomes even more relevant when considering that green innovation success depends, among other factors, on fulfilling buyer expectations [6
]. Circular economy is focused on maximizing what is already in use, at every point of a product’s life cycle. It preserves our current way of life by making it technically viable on the long run by producing within a closed system, or loop. To prevent or to decrease waste generation [9
], firms and public institutions had to reuse materials through a process of disassembling, recouping and recovering, reinforcing, and, finally, repurposing materials already in use [10
Researchers and modeling experts at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment estimate that, in a circular economy scenario, consumption of new materials could be reduced [12
] by as much as 32% within 15 years, and by more than half, at 53%, by 2050 [13
]. Raw materials used in construction, car manufacturing, synthetic fertilizer, pharmaceutical products, and pesticide production, fuels and nonrenewable energy, land use etc. can be replaced with recovered and repurposed materials in cascaded use, in circular businesses [14
]. Such innovative technologies will not be sufficient to solve the environmental problems related to the growing product demand [15
]. To maintain a sustainable environment, a better balance between consumption, waste generation, production and livestock production’s impact on the environment will be essential. Also, a change in consumption behavior, business management, and in people education [17
] will be necessary to reduce manufacturing of products-related GHG emissions [16
]. This study investigates opportunities and bottlenecks of some alternative and more SCP choices in terms of consumer evaluation with the aim of identifying which types of circular business model are more appropriated for Romanian consumers. To identify their consumer characteristics, an inter-generation segmentation analysis is included. Segmentation research, independent of the method used, is designed to identify groups of elements with common characteristics, e.g., consumers with similar attitudes, motivations, responsible habits or lifestyles. Consumers that are grouped together in a potential target segment are intended to be more alike to each other, and dissimilar to consumers outside the segment [21
Segmentation research allows a better understanding on how to make SCP choices more relevant to different consumers and how to better position sustainable products in a competitive marketing environment. From this angle, distinct consumer profiles can be established, which provide insights on how to target, communicate and convince these distinct groups to make more SCP choices.
Furthermore, the researchers seek to answer the following questions:
Is there a difference in SCP attitude between the X generation, Millennials (Y) and Post-Millennials (Z)?
How do consumers’ SCP behaviors influence the new circular economy business models?
What needs to be done to increase green consumption behavior?
Research studies have found that millennials agree with protecting the environment and that there are benefits in reducing resource consumption, selective collection, recycling and reuse. However, most of them have not adopted and do not intend to adopt consumer patterns based on the circular economy and exhibit diverse levels of environmental concern and attitude. In general, millennials showed a more positive attitude or higher environmental concerns compared to other generations [25
]. However, whether male and female consumers exhibit different levels of environmental attitude and concern toward SCP remains to be further investigated.
In line with these notions, it is the purpose of this study to provide an understanding of consumers’ behavior regarding SCP and generation-based distinctions in attitudes, which can benefit marketers to better understand their consumer characteristics and develop more efficient market communication strategies. The rationale of the relations among the variables are presented in the following sections. The next section provides a discussion and analysis of some of the CE literature including the variety of definitions that exist and identifies some of the limitations of these, frameworks for SCP and generations X, Y and Z analyses. In section three, we work on the research and methods that help us characterize consumer behavior oriented to CE and then we analyzed the questionnaire survey on a national scale. After this, we arrive with the research findings and the conclusion which looks like the most of respondents have not adopted and do not intend to adopt consumer patterns based on the circular economy. Finally, the discussion and final remarks are presented in section six.
4. Research Findings
The percentage of respondents considering the attitude towards the environment as “important” and “very important” in the total sample have been calculated.
We can observe that although all three generations have a major favorable attitude towards the business and consumption models that have a lower impact on the environment, the most concerned are, in ascending order, the X-ers, the millennials and the Z generation presented in Figure 1
Though the concern for the environment is important to all the three generations, the ecologically concerned behaviour adopted so far are relatively infrequent as can be seen in Table 5
The most frequent behaviors, in all three generations, are: separately collection of paper and of plastic waste and separately collection of used batteries. Also, generation X is the generation most engaged in ecologic type of consumption, followed by generation Y and generation Z.
The big picture on the ecological patterns of consumption shows that the X-ers are most responsible in comparison with generation Y. Generation Z is the least involved in such activities.
Seventy five percent of X generation respondents reported behaviours of selective collection of paper waste, 71% separately collect plastic waste, 59% bring used batteries to special collection centers, 34% take used light bulbs at a special recycling centers and 32% share the car with other colleagues when going to work.
Generation Y is behind generation X with regard to ecologic activities, but we expect a more pronounced ecologic behavior once they become older. This trend is not in accordance with the behavior of Ys in the West, where Ys are more expected to establish the trend and adopt ecological behaviours.
The people in Z generation score the most at commuting to school or work with public transport, but this behavior is most probably due to the lack of financial resources required for buying a personal car, rather than an ecological reason.
Moreover, we cannot foresee changes in ecological attitudes in the near future, as can be seen in Table 6
, where the preference of renting over buying a series of goods is presented. For comparison, the millennials in the US “would rather buy a car and lease a house. Seventy-one percent of millennials would rather buy than rent a car, whereas 59% would rather rent a house than buy one. More than 61% of them admit that they can't afford a house” [68
Unfortunately, it seems that these business models based on the circular economy [69
] will have to educate customers from the current Y and Z generations in the future.
In other words, some half of the millennials do not try to adopt an experiential type of consumption behavior, staying to the traditional ways of behavior. The new business models based on the circular economy will have to invest in educating the market through awareness and education campaigns.
The Millennials are aware of the advantages of the experiential types of consumption behavior, as can be seen in Table 7
X-ers rate the advantage of buying over renting as being either important or very important on average 76% of the time, while Generations Y and Z respondents rate it only 61% and 63%, respectively. To see if there are significant differences between groups, we used the Kruskal–Wallis H test, which is an omnibus test, followed by a post-hoc test.
A Kruskal Wallis test was conducted to evaluate differences among the three generations (X, Y, Z) on median change in eco-friendly activities undergone in the past by respondents (N = 559). Of the eight types of activities presented in the questionnaire, six were found to be significantly different (Table 8
). A follow-up test was conducted to evaluate pairwise differences among the three generations.
Regarding the use of public transportation for commuting to and from work, the results indicated a significant difference between generations X-Y (p = 0.02), X-Z (p < .001) and Y-Z (p = 0.45). Significantly more people from the Z generation use public transportation compared with Y and X generation and significantly more people form the Y generation use public transportation compared with X generation.
Regarding the selective collection of paper waste from Q8.4, the results indicated a significant difference between generations Y and X (p = 0.022), Z and X (p < 0.001) and Z and Y (p < 0.001). Significantly more people from Generation X collect paper waste as compared with each of the other two categories and significantly fewer people from Generation Z collect paper waste selectively.
Related to Q8.5, the selective collection of plastic waste, the results indicated a significant difference between generations Y-X (p = 0.040), Z-X (p < 0.001) and Z-Y (p = 0.001). Significantly more people from the X generation collect plastic waste as compared with each of the other two categories and significantly less people from the Z generation collect plastic waste selectively.
In the case of selective collection of used oil from Q8.6, the results indicated a significant difference between generations Y-X (p = 0.014), Z-X (p < 0.001). Significantly, more people from the X generation collect used oil as compared with the other two categories. There is no significant difference between the Z and Y generations.
The results regarding the selective collection of used batteries (Q8.7) indicated, a significant difference between generations Y-X (p = 0.044), Z-X (p < 0.001) and Z-Y (p < 0.001). Significantly more people from the X generation collect used batteries as compared with each of the other two categories and significantly less people from the Z generation collect used batteries selectively.
At the Q8.8 regarding the selective collection of used light bulbs, the results indicated a significant difference between generations Z-X (p
< 0.001) and Z-Y (p
< 0.001). Significantly, less people from the Z generation collect used light bulbs as compared with the other two categories. There is no significant difference between the X and Y generations as can be seen in the Figure 2
. We go further to evaluate differences among the three generations (X, Y, Z) of the seven types of resources presented in the questionnaire, two were found to be significantly different, as presented in Table 9
Consumers attitude regarding the preference for renting instead of buying IT equipment (Q11.4), showed a significant difference between generations Z-X (p
= 0.017). Significantly, less people from the Z generation are willing to rent IT equipment as compared with people form the X generation. There is no significant difference between the X-Y and Y-Z generations as can be seen in the Figure 3
A significant difference was observed between generations Z-X (p = 0.008) regarding the preference for renting instead of buying mobile phones (Q11.5). Significantly, less people from the Z generation are willing to rent mobile phones as compared with people form the X generation. There is no significant difference between the X-Y and Y-Z generations.
Related to Q12 we observe that of the five items presented in the questionnaire, two were found to be significantly different (Table 10
Regarding the advantage of service being a responsibility of the company (Q12.1), a significant difference was found between generations Z-X (p < 0.001). Significantly, less people from the Z generation see it as an advantage as compared with people from the X generation. There is no significant difference between the X-Y and Y-Z generations.
With regard of the advantage of the company being responsible of the product after its end of life, a significant difference was found between generations Y-X (p
= 0.003) and Z-X (p
= 0.001) it was observed after that Q12.4 was analyzed. Significantly less people from the Z and Y generations see it as an advantage as compared with people form the X generation. In Figure 4
it is presented a comparison between question Q12.1 and Q12.4.
We can say that Generation Y agrees with the concern towards the environment and with the advantages of the reduction of consumption of resources, of selective collection of waste, of recycling and reuse of goods. However, most of them did not adopt and they do not try to adopt consumption patterns based on circular economy. In other words, circular businesses will have to educate their markets to change their consumption patterns.
The fact that X-ers do not regularly use bus to go to work can be explained by the fact that they have higher income and can afford to use their private car. A chi-squared test (Table 11
) reveals that people in the X generation have a significantly higher income than expected, in the over 2500 lei category.
A Principal Component Analysis was run with a Varimax rotation on all the items. The determinant for the correlation matrix was positive (t = 2.607 × 10−9), the KMO value was quite high 0.738 and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was significant (χ(595) = 2302.644) indicating that the sample is adequate for factor analysis.
The communalities were all over the threshold of 0.4, the minimum being 0.540. A nine-component solution emerged explaining 67.268% (Appendix A
). The rotated component matrix (Appendix B
) contained both factors with less than 3 items and cross-loadings. The items in question were excluded in an iterative process until a satisfactory solution was obtained.
The final correlation matrix still had a positive determinant and with a higher value (t = 3.113 × 10−6), KMO value remained unchanged and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was still significant (χ(276) = 1523.707). The communalities were all above 0.4 (minimum 0.460).
The six resulting components explained a total of 66.317% of variance (Appendix C
). The resulting rotated component matrix is presented in Appendix D
. The resulting factors are:
Factor 1 - The preference for renting things (Q11.1, 11.2, 11.3, 11.4, 11.5, 11.7)
Factor 2 - Selective collection of waste (Q8.5, 8.7, 8.8, 8.4, 8.6)
Factor 3 - Advantages of renting things (Q12.3, 12.3, 12.4, 12.5)
Factor 4 - Attitude towards recycling (Q9.2, 10.2, 4.2)
Factor 5 - Efficiency of resource utilization (Q6.1, 6.3, 6.4)
Factor 6 - Attitude towards selective recycling (Q3, 5, 7)
After performing a reliability test, the Cronbach Alpha values in Table 12
were obtained for:
Except for the last factor, the other sub-scales showed very good reliability, meaning that they are appropriate for measuring the construct that they are part of.
For each of the factors the factor scores were computed by using the regression method.
The regression scores were used for performing an analysis of variance (ANOVA). The only statistically significant group mean differences that emerged were for factor 2 and factor 6, which are presented in Table 13
They are also more prone to live in urban areas as opposed to rural settings. The people in this category are significantly more involved in selective collection of different types of waste (paper, plastic, used oil, batteries and light bulbs). They are also significantly more willing to share their IT and mobile equipment. They see it as an advantage that companies take care of servicing and disposing of their products once they have reached their end of life.
People from the Z generation regularly use buses, mostly because of financial reasons. Significantly more people from the Z generation earn less than 1000 lei per month. They don’t engage in selective collection behaviors and are less willing to share their IT or mobile devices.