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, researchers Michael Giebelhausen and Helen Chun conducted two experiments to examine this contrary behavior. Giebelhausen and Chun’s ultimate goal was to see how large companies could gain the sustainability cred they deserve. Here are some findings from “Reversing the Green Backlash: Why Large Hospitality Companies Should Welcome 'Credibly Green' Competitors.”
- Consumers have trouble believing that large companies are truly going green, even though it is common knowledge that many chains are working hard on sustainability initiatives.
- Customers seem to give more credibility to the green activities of small companies. The presence of that smaller competitor seems to create a halo that can improve customers' evaluations of a larger company's green initiatives.
- It turns out that the small company and the large company don't even have to be doing the same thing, reports Chun. "When a small, credible competitor is initiating sustainable policies, a large company can likewise promote their own activities, even when they're different.”