Consumer ethics and motivations

Socially responsible consumers: profile and implications for public policy


Antil J. H. 1984. Journal of Macromarketing 4(2): 18-39.


Socially responsible consumption is an important prerequisite to successful voluntary conservation programs. This article reviews past research describing the socially responsible consumer and provides a more comprehensive profile of these consumers. Implications for the formation of public policy are discussed. (Anthil, 1984 p.18)




The theory of planned behaviour


Ajzen I. 1991.Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes 50(2): 179-211.


Research dealing with various aspects of the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985 and Ajzen, 1987) is reviewed, and some unresolved issues are discussed. In broad terms, the theory is found to be well supported by empirical evidence.

Intentions to perform behaviors of different kinds can be predicted with high accuracy from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control; and these intentions, together with perceptions of behavioral control, account for considerable variance in actual behavior.

Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are shown to be related to appropriate sets of salient behavioral, normative, and control beliefs about the behavior, but the exact nature of these relations is still uncertain. Expectancy-value formulations are found to be only partly successful in dealing with these relations.

Optimal rescaling of expectancy and value measures is offered as a means of dealing with measurement limitations. Finally, inclusion of past behavior in the prediction equation is shown to provide a means of testing the theory's sufficiency, another issue that remains unresolved.

The limited available evidence concerning this question shows that the theory is predicting behavior quite well in comparison to the ceiling imposed by behavioral reliability. (Ajzen, 1991 p.179)




Consumer ethics: an assessment of individual behaviour in the market place


Fullerton S. Kerch K. B. and Dodge H. R. 1996. Journal of Business Ethics 15: 805-814.


Using the results of a study in the USA (n= 362), this paper explores the role of consumer ethics in the American marketplace. The authors find that participants who are young, well education and higher income earners tend to be more influenced by ethical concerns.




Consumer ethics: a cross-cultural investigation


Al-Khatib J. A. Vitell S. J. and Rawwas M. Y. A. 1997. European Journal of Marketing 31(11/12): 750-767.


In recent years, business ethics has drawn increased interest from business and marketing practitioners as well as from academicians. Despite the repeated call in the literature for cross-cultural research in this age of globalization, virtually no studies have examined the ethical beliefs and ideologies of foreign consumers and compared them to those of US consumers.

This study investigates the ethical beliefs, preferred ethical ideology and degree of Machiavellianism of US versus Egyptian consumers. Concludes that while US consumers appear generally less likely to accept various questionable consumer practices than Egyptian consumers, they are more likely to reject moral absolutes. (Al-Khatib et al., 1997 p.750)




Reshaping boundaries: international ethics and environmental consciousness in the early twentieth century


Bell M. 1998. Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers 23(2): 151-175.


This article looks at how global ethics and environmentalism have impacted on how nature-society relations are conceived in British society. The values of harmony and cooperation were found to be central to these forms of public consciousness.




The ethical consumer, moral norms and packaging choice


Thøgersen J. 1999. Journal of Consumer Policy 22: 439-460.


This paper explores moral reasoning and motivations behind consumption choices, more specifically those decisions that involve environmental concerns. Using the case study of environmental-friendly packaging in Denmark, the paper argues that environmental attitudes in consumption are more complicated than they first appear. In the Danish context, personal norms have developed amongst consumers around environmental packaging techniques to have significant impacts on consumer behaviour.




Interpretive Consumer Research: Paradigms, Methodologies and Applications


Beckmann S. and Elliot R. 2000. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.

Book preview available here.


Researching the consumer has progressed far beyond the research for managerial implications and has become a major focus for the social sciences. In the field of marketing research, interpretive approaches to studying consumer behaviour are playing an increasing role.

This book presents the wide range of conceptual and empirical approaches that are required in studies of the consumer and consumption. The model of the consumer as an individual decision-maker is being replaced with a richer perspective that situates him/her in a social and cultural location where the collective influences are balanced against the subjectivity of the consumption act.

The book will be useful reading for students and researchers working in the fields of consumer behaviour and marketing, cultural and media studies, and sociology. (, 2010)




Framing effects within the ethical decision making process of consumers


Bateman C. Fraedrich J. and Iyer R. 2001. Journal of Business Ethics 36: 119-140.


This article focuses on decision-making processes within consumption and questions how the ways in which effects of consumption are framed may impact upon consumer ethics. This is a conceptual paper aimed at expanding the field of consumer ethics research.




Voluntary simplicity and the ethics of consumption


Shaw D. and Newholm T. 2002. Psychology & Marketing 19(2): 167-185.


In this paper Shaw and Newholm investigate the link between ethical consumption and voluntary simplicity, or what they term ‘ethical simplicity’. To do this, they draw on qualitative empirical research conducted with ‘ethical consumers’ in the UK from 1997-1999. They find that consumers display various inconsistences in their consumption decision-making with regards to consumption and anti-consumerism, and that there is a need for the issues of ethical simplicity to be explored in future research.




What will consumers pay for social product features?


Auger P. Devinney T. M. and Louviere J. J. 2003. Journal of Business Ethics 42(3): 281-304.


The importance of ethical consumerism to many companies worldwide has increased dramatically in recent years. Ethical consumerism encompasses the importance of non-traditional and social components of a company’s products and business process to strategic success – such as environmental protectionism, child labor practices and so on.

The present paper utilizes a random utility theoretic experimental design to provide estimates of the relative value selected consumers place on the social features of products. (Auger et al., 2003 p.281)




Ethics in consumer choice: a multivariate modelling approach


Shaw D. and Shiu E. 2003. European Journal of Marketing 37(10): 1485-1518.


Research has consistently revealed an increasing demand for "ethical" choices in the global marketplace. However, very little has been published about the decision-making processes of these "ethical" consumers and the implications for marketing.

Given the shortfall in research that addresses ethical consumer choice, this paper outlines results from a larger scale national UK survey of known "ethical" consumers. To examine this important and neglected area, reliability analysis and structural equation modelling techniques were used to explore the relationships between important factors inlfuencing ethical consumer choice.

Using two data sets, a model of decision-making was developed and cross-validated. Results of the study reveal the improved ability of this new model of ethical consumer decision-making in the explanation of intention to purchase fair trade grocery products. Implications of these findings for marketing practitioners are discussed. (Shaw and Shiu, 2003 p.1485)




Looking at consumer behavior in a moral perspective


Brinkmann J. 2004. Journal of Business Ethics 51(2): 129-141.


The paper suggests that consumers and their behaviours deserve (much) more attention in our field. After a few website references (about ethical shopping and ethical trade initiatives) and after a brief literature review of recent business ethics and consumer behaviour literature conceptual frameworks are suggested.

As an open end, the paper contains some empirical refernces, related to consumer honesty, tax loyalty and to motives for buying organic food, and suggests the development of a consumer morality measurement instrument. (Brinkmann, 2004 p.129)




Caring at a distance: gift theory, aid chains and social movements


Silk J. 2004. Social & Cultural Geography 5(2): 229-251.


This paper theorises the concept of caring at a distance with the example of aid chains that connect donors in the North with those in need in the South. The author applies the concept of Gift Theory to investigate these aid-giving and aid-receiving relations, and how they are intersected with questions of politics and power for those involved.




Ethical consumerism: a view from Finland


Uusitaio O. and Oksanen R. 2004. International Journal of Consumer Studies 28(3): 214-221.


This paper reports from a survey of over 700 Finnish consumers about ethics in trade. Although a high number of consumers in the study reported that business ethics and corporate social responsibility would affect their consumption choices, the survey showed that such attitudes do not necessarily translate into practice. There emerged an amount of confusion about which companies were ethical or unethical, in part due to a lack of access to information.




An exploration of values in ethical consumer decision making


Shaw D. Grehan E. Shiu E. Hassan L. and Thomson J. 2005. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 4(3): 185-200.

Full text available here.


Consumer concern for ethical issues has been well documented across much of the developed world. Research on values is also prominent in the literature.

Neglected in consumer behaviour is an understanding of the pertinence of particular values in ethical decision making contexts. This paper outlines the results of qualitative research, which explores those values pertinent to ethical consumers in decision making and the nature of their influence in grocery consumption contexts.

A questionnaire was used to ascertain the dominance and nature of values influencing consumer decision making in this context. (Shaw et al., 2005 p.185)




Behind Ethical Consumption: Purchasing Motives and Marketing Strategies for Organic Food Products, Non-Gmos, Bio-Fuels


Guido G. 2009. Bern: Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers.

Book preview available Text available here.


This book presents five related studies, each dealing with the issue of the motivations behind ethical choices of consumption and discussing their implications on marketing strategy.

The fields of investigation range from organic food to genetically modified products, from bio-fuels to new low-emission transport technologies, the consumption of each of which has by its very nature a recognized ethical validity.

On these themes, this volume offers a European point of view and, in particular, an Italian one, either extending studies undertaken in various countries, or proposing new and original lines of research into the antecedents of purchase intentions that have never before been explored. (Guido, 2009)




Consumer Kids: How Big Business is Grooming Our Children for Profit


Mayo E. and Nairn A. 2009. London: Constable and Robinson.


Consumer kids uncovers the latest marketing tactics and discovers what the big corporations are really up to: recruiting children to promote products in the playground, acting as their friend on online social networks, repackaging junk food as healthy food, ducking regulation and making sure that children usually don't realize what's an advert and what isn't. Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn look at why children may be torturing their Barbies, what boys' emotional development has got to do with David Beckham, why children with difficult home backgrounds make the most ardent consumers and why, above all, too much marketing makes for unhappy families. This hard-hitting expose is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the real effects of the runaway commercial world we live in.



'People are just becoming more conscious of how everything’s connected’: ‘ethical’ food consumption in two regions of Canada


Beagan B. L. Ristovski-Slijepcevic S. and Chapman G. E. 2010. Sociology 44(4): 752-769.


This article explores various Canadian discourses of ethical consumption, focussing on demographic, social and cultural differences between different groups in terms of their encounters with ethical consumption. The paper uses findings from a qualitative research project carried out in two regions in Canada to draw distinctions between different social groups in each area, to find that relationships to community have an impact on ethical consumption practices.




Going green to be seen: status, reputation, and conspicuous conservation


Griskevicius V. Tybur J. M. and Van den Bergh B. 2010. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 98(3): 392-404.


The authors argue that buying pro-environmental “green” products can be construed as altruistic. Because biologists have observed that altruism might function as a “costly signal” associated with status, the authors examined how status motives influenced desire for green products. They found that activating status motives led people to choose green products over more luxurious nongreen products when shopping in public (but not private) and when green products cost more (but not less) than non-green products. Findings suggest that status competition can be used to promote pro-environmental behavior.




Do green products make us better people?


Mazar N. and Zhong C.-B. 2010. Psychological Science 21(4): 494-498.


Consumer choices not only reflect price and quality preferences but also social and moral values. The authors find that mere exposure to and purchase of green products lead to markedly different behavioral consequences: people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products, but people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products. Together, the studies show that consumption is more tightly connected to our social and ethical behaviors in directions and domains other than previously thought.




Exploring everyday ethical consumption: an ethnography of the ethics of family consumption


Hall S. M. 2011. Geoforum 42(6): 627-637.


Using findings from ethnographic research with families in the UK, this paper illustrates how ethics are negotiated and formed in everyday consumption practices. This paper considered the everyday ethics of consumption as they relate to money, waste and health. It argues that definitions and understandings of ethical consumption are prescriptive and do not explain the moral readings of other, ‘ordinary’ consumption practices.




Fair Trade and the Citizen-Consumer


Wheeler K. 2012. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


As sales of fair-trade goods explode across the globe, Fair Trade and the Citizen-Consumer provides an analysis of the organizations, institutions and grassroots networks behind this growing movement. Drawing on examples from the UK, Sweden and USA, this book moves away from models of individualized consumer choice and instead explores the collective cultures and practices that motivate and sustain fair-trade consumer behaviour. Although the fair-trade citizen-consumer has been called to action and publicly represented as an individual 'voting' in the marketplace, this book reveals how market interventions are editing the choices available to consumers, at the same time as 'Fairtrade Town' consumer networks are flourishing. Offering new and critical insights into the fair-trade success story, this book also contributes to debates about sustainable consumption behaviour and the growth of 'new' forms of political participation and citizenship.