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Sustainability Study 2: Negativity in the news

eye on commerce

In previous stories, you’ve read about the rise of triple bottom line (TBL) sustainability and the Spillover Effect Studies, which explored how significant its effect was across economic, environmental, and social news.

Here’s a look at the second study by the researchers on the role of negativity in the news.

Not all negative news is created equal. While it may be troubling to some if a firm does not recycle, it is shocking if a firm is dumping toxic waste. Most people would assume that as bad news gets worse, consumer responses should grow more dramatic.

The second part of the Spillover Effect Studies tested the impact of varying intensities of news from very bad (near bankruptcy, waste dumping, and child labor) to moderately bad (5 percent decrease in profit, no energy conservation certification, and no pay raises) on both quality perceptions and consumer willingness to buy.

Interestingly, it did not matter how bad the news was, all bad news decreased consumer perceptions of product quality regardless of the intensity or type of news. The results were slightly different for consumer willingness to buy: the worse the news about environmental and social actions of a company, the less willing consumers were to buy.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.


Hannah Stolze, PhD, is associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Dr. Stolze earned her PhD in business administration with a concentration in logistics and marketing from the University of Tennessee.