Consumers exhibit a more forgiving attitude towards failures in eco-friendly or ‘green’ products compared to conventional ones, according to new research.

Conducted jointly by UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD Smurfit School), HEC Montréal, and Ted Rogers School of Management, the research highlights a notable consumer trend.

Understanding the ‘Greenguard Effect’

Dr Anshu Suri, UCD Garfield Weston Assistant Professor of Marketing at UCD Smurfit School, alongside Dr Ali Tezer and Dr Matthew Philp, delved into this phenomenon, examining reactions to product failure in both green and conventional products. The study encompassed an empirical field analysis and eight controlled experiments, spanning measures such as consumer ratings on platforms like, the propensity to write negative reviews, and preferences for refunds over replacements.

The findings underscore a distinct behavioural pattern – consumers, while not ignoring the shortcomings of green products, showcase a greater leniency towards their failures. Termed as the ‘Greenguard Effect’, this leniency stems from consumers perceiving their restrained negative feedback as a supportive measure for environmental causes.

Implications for Product Development and Marketing

Dr Suri explains, “Consumers view refraining from negative feedback towards green products as a contribution towards the environment, showcasing a prosocial behaviour. This nuanced understanding shapes consumer responses, diverging from the conventional criticism levelled at products that don’t meet expectations.”

The research also suggests a strategic implication for businesses involved in green product manufacturing and marketing. Embedding eco-friendly attributes into product design could potentially mitigate adverse consumer reactions to potential product failures. Additionally, it underscores the necessity for companies to allocate more resources towards managing failures in conventional product lines due to their susceptibility to harsh consumer criticism.

Published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, these findings provide valuable insights shaping future marketing strategies and product development approaches, particularly in navigating consumer responses to product failures in the burgeoning market of eco-conscious products. Understanding consumer behaviour towards eco-friendly products serves as a pivotal guide for businesses aiming to leverage sustainability as a marketing strategy.