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"Cutting the Internet’s Environmental Footprint : An Analysis of Consumers’ Self-attribution of Responsibility"

Abstract :
This research investigates a particular type of emerging pro-environmental behavior, namely behavior adopted on the Internet. In an exploratory qualitative study, we find low awareness of the environmental impact of Internet usage and document respondents’ reluctance to change their online behavior. In particular, they tend not to accept their role (responsibility) in contributing to this impact but put the onus on companies and public authorities to take the necessary measures. Moreover, consumers experience a contradiction between competing motivations : not harming the environment on the one hand and continuing to use the Internet the way they currently do on the other hand. Building on these findings, a quantitative study further investigates the determinants of consumers’ self-attribution of responsibility and emphasizes mechanisms of cognitive dissonance. A conceptual model also highlights the crucial role of skepticism toward the pro-environmental solution. Implications for companies and public policy makers are discussed.