Advancing sustainable consumption in Korea and Japan-from re-orientation of consumer behavior to civic actions

Eunjung Lim, Shin Arita, Soonhee Joung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6683
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number23
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the author.


  • Descriptive norm
  • Environmental awareness; pro-environmental self-identity
  • Sustainability in Korea and Japan
  • Sustainable consumption


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