An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption

Journal of Business Ethics 98 (4):597 - 608 (2011)

Abstract

Although consumers are increasingly engaged with ethical factors when forming opinions about products and making purchase decisions, recent studies have highlighted significant differences between consumers' intentions to consume ethically, and their actual purchase behaviour. This article contributes to an understanding of this 'Ethical Purchasing Gap' through a review of existing literature, and the inductive analysis of focus group discussions. A model is suggested which includes exogenous variables such as moral maturity and age which have been well covered in the literature, together with further impeding factors identified from the focus group discussions. For some consumers, inertia in purchasing behaviour was such that the decision-making process was devoid of ethical considerations. Several consumers manifested their ethical views through post-purchase dissonance and retrospective feelings of guilt. Others displayed a reluctance to consume ethically due to personal constraints, a perceived negative impact on image or quality, or an outright negation of responsibility. Those who expressed a desire to consume ethically often seemed deterred by cynicism, which caused them to question the impact they, as an individual, could achieve. These findings enhance the understanding of ethical consumption decisions and provide a platform for future research in this area

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