Michael Luchs honored for his research on sustainability marketing

Assistant Professor Michael Luchs won the Best Conference Paper award at the American Marketing Association’s (AMA) 2010 Marketing and Public Policy Conference, held May 20-22, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

The Marketing and Public Policy Conference is “the premier event for the study of topics intersecting marketing, social, and public policy,” according to the AMA.

The paper, entitled, “Trading-Off Sustainability: Choice and Willing-to-Pay Given a Trade-Off between Sustainability and Functional Performance,” focuses on understanding the mixed set of emotions that affect a consumer’s purchasing decisions and willingness-to-pay when faced with choosing between two similar products when one of the products is somewhat more sustainable and the other has somewhat better functional performance.

Luchs and his co-authors, Jacob Brower, a doctoral candidate in marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, and Ravindra Chitturi, Associate Professor of marketing at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, found that until a minimum threshold of functional performance is provided, consumers simply will not choose sustainability over performance.  Once this minimum level of performance is provided, however, product choice depends on how important sustainability is to the individual consumer.  Simply put, some consumers value additional performance, even when it is not needed, and don’t feel guilty about choosing performance over sustainability. Other consumers, however, are compelled by feelings of guilt and choose sustainability over performance when they are relatively sure that at least a satisfactory level of performance will be provided.  

Luchs and his co-authors also found that despite what some prior research has suggested, when faced with a trade-off  between performance and sustainability, overall consumers are willing to pay more for some additional performance; more even than they are willing to pay for superior sustainability.  Their current research is focused on ways to improve the odds of success and consumers’ valuation of sustainable products.

While this paper won him acclaim, Luchs says he researches sustainability because it makes a difference.

“We all strive to do research that matters and this is a topic that is relevant to all of us, not just to managers of companies or to an academic audience," he says.

Luchs’ AMA Best Conference Paper award is not his only recent achievement.

The Journal of Marketing is publishing his article, “The Sustainability Liability: Potential Negative Effects of Ethicality on Product Preference,” in its September, 2010 edition. The article, co-authored by: Rebecca Walker Naylor, Assistant Professor of marketing at Ohio State University, Julie R. Irwin, Associate Professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Rajagopal Raghunathan, Professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin, focuses on how the label of “sustainable product,” affects the sale of certain consumer goods.

Sustainability is often a topic in Luchs’ classroom.

In his two undergraduate courses, he spends ample time discussing sustainability in terms of consumer behavior and company strategy.  Each semester in his Principles of Marketing class, he dedicates a full day to discussing current issues that focus on sustainability. In his Marketing Research course, students complete a semester-long project based on a sustainable business.

Dr. Michael Luchs is an Assistant Professor of Marketing. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. Dr. Luchs also earned an M.S. in Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business, as well as a B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.A. in Psychology from Tufts University.