Chapter 28: Addressing the market failures of environmental health products
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Low-income populations around the world frequently face an environment characterized by high levels of pollution and environmental contaminants. Improving access to products that protect them - like water purifiers that reduce the risk of waterborne illness and improved cooking technologies that reduce exposure to indoor air pollution - is a critical objective for social inclusion and sustainable development. However, even though there exist many of these environmental health products that can benefit poor users around the world, attempts to create markets and business models for their provision, diffusion, and adoption have failed. We explain that prior work on the problem of adoption of these technologies has prioritized the purchase decision while giving less consideration to decisions made before and after purchase, has focused narrowly on obstacles confronting the low-income consumers who buy these products and not on the obstacles confronting the markets and businesses that sell them, and that there has been little systematic research identifying and experimentally testing specific interventions that can be implemented to address these problems. We provide a research framework for management scholars who are interested in addressing the adoption problem, highlighting multiple points of market failure in the process of consumer adoption and product provision. We urge researchers to design and test strategies to tackle each failure while attending to the on-the-ground obstacles and potential opportunities facing firms operating in these markets. Our chapter concludes with a discussion that offers potential next steps in this research agenda, as well as larger considerations about the roles played by market actors versus, or in collaboration with, actors from other sectors to achieve the goals of improved global health and equitable sustainable development.

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