Are low carbon innovations appealing? A typology of functional, symbolic, private and public attributes

Hazel Pettifor, Charlie Wilson, Sandra Bogelein, Emma Cassar, Laurie Kerr, Mark Wilson

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14 Citations (SciVal)


Attributes are central to understanding the consumer appeal of low carbon innovations. In this paper we provide a comprehensive understanding of the wide ranging attributes of low carbon innovations. We use a two-by-two dimensional typology which identifies four discrete domains of attribute: private functional, public functional, private symbolic, and public symbolic. Using structured elicitation with over 65 people we examine perceived attributes of 12 consumer innovations in mobility, food, homes and energy. We find that low carbon innovations are relatively unappealing against the private functional and symbolic attributes valued by potential mainstream consumers. This includes features such as money saving, time saving, ease of access, ease of use, trust, and private identity. They are, however, highly appealing against many public functional and symbolic attributes including a range of social and environmental benefits. Food innovations in particular have high social appeal where they support local businesses, protect and build communities around food and build community spirit. Home innovations such as smart appliances and smart lighting are highly appealing because they are novel yet also fit within current social norms. Low carbon innovations based on the sharing economy model offer unique sources of added value related to the creation of social institutions and localised networks. It is important that low carbon innovations are positioned within the marketplace so as to emphasise unique sources of added value within the public domain rather than compete directly with established incumbents whose business models are largely built on volume, scale and costs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101422
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Early online date8 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

M1 - 101422


  • low carbon innovations
  • ; Diffusion; Attributes; Structured elicitation; Repertory grid technique


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