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Advancing Sustainable Consumption in Korea and Japan—From Re-Orientation of Consumer Behavior to Civic Actions


  • Eunjung Lim

    () (Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan)

  • Shin Arita

    () (Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan)

  • Soonhee Joung

    () (Department of Consumer Studies, Ewha Womans University, Seoul 03760, Korea)


With sustainability being one of the most common issues facing consumers and society today, this paper explores the status of sustainable consumption in Korea and Japan—societies expected to drive the changes pertaining to sustainable consumption in Asia. Although Korea and Japan have been implementing sustainability-related policies, there is still room for development of sustainability in terms of consumers’ participation. As sustainable consumption is defined as consumers’ environmental decision-making process, which requires cognitive efforts, it is necessary to understand individual’s sustainable consumption based on the conceptual model of behavior, in order to encourage the adoption of more sustainable consumer practices. Being grounded in the revised Theory of Reasoned Action, which adds consumers’ awareness, pro-environmental self-identity, and descriptive norm, this study contributes to a better empirical understanding of the factors that underlie sustainable consumption behaviors with respect to social-cognitive viewpoint. By involving a survey of Korean and Japanese respondents’ awareness, descriptive norm, practical behavior to 47 specific activities, as well as attitude and pro-environmental self-identity, the study works on two levels: on one level, it is a study of sustainability-related consumer activities and behaviors in Korea and Japan; on another level, it identifies key variables to explain sustainable consumption behavior through hierarchical regression analysis. The results show that among the numerous sectors requiring prioritized expansion of sustainable consumption, the area of consumer citizenship has received relatively little publicity. Another important finding is that the failure to practically engage in sustainability-related activities by consumers cannot simply be attributed to knowledge deficit, as consumers in both countries appropriately recognize sustainable consumption. Our results clearly illustrate that consumers perform sustainable consumption behavior based mostly on socially shared connotations—the descriptive norm—while the other key variables affecting sustainable consumption are awareness, and pro-environmental self-identity. However, we also observed that there is no significant effect on attitude, indicating that even a favorable attitude toward performing sustainability-related activities does not directly translate into actual behavior. This paper shows how consumer perceptions of the normality of environmentally friendly behaviors can be used for the design of strategies to promote sustainable consumption in Korean and Japanese societies. In addition, we provide practical guidelines for the expansion of sustainable consumption tailored for the characteristics of each society.

Suggested Citation

  • Eunjung Lim & Shin Arita & Soonhee Joung, 2019. "Advancing Sustainable Consumption in Korea and Japan—From Re-Orientation of Consumer Behavior to Civic Actions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(23), pages 1-22, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:23:p:6683-:d:290958

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    References listed on IDEAS

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