Environmental policy when pollutive consumption is sensitive to advertising: Norms versus status

Elisabeth Gsottbauer, Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

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12 Citations (Scopus)


A theoretical model is developed to analyse optimal environmental policy when consumer preferences are endogenous. It captures that pollutive consumption is sensitive to consumption by others and commercial advertising. This is conceptualized through a consumption norm. An increase in this norm means that consumers will become dissatisfied with a given consumption level and try to raise it, which will cause an increase in pollution. The model is particularly relevant for the study of conspicuous consumption which generally is subject to concentrated advertising efforts while it generates considerable pollution. The model can accommodate the cases of an externality created by advertising being positive or negative. We also show that using different functional specifications for the norm function one can address either conformity or status seeking. We derive optimal rules for a pollution tax, a subsidy or tax on advertising, and information provision by the government. The results not only contribute to more realism in environmental policy theory but also extend public policy with new instruments. © 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-50
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Endogenous preferences
  • Environmental externalities
  • Information externalities
  • Marketing
  • Norms
  • Pollution
  • Status seeking


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