An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption
Authors: Bray, J.P.
Start date: 15 July 2009
ABSTRACT Evidence suggests that consumers are increasingly aware of, engaged with, and influenced by ethical factors when forming opinions on products and making purchase decisions. Despite this, a number of recent studies have highlighted significant differences between consumers’ intention to consume ethically, and their actual purchase behaviour. This paper contributes to an understanding of the factors contributing to this ‘Ethical Purchasing Gap’. A model of the impeding factors to ethical consumption is constructed based upon a review of existing literature, and the inductive analysis of focus group discussions. While exogenous variables such as Moral Maturity and Age are well covered in the literature, a further range of impeding factors have been identified as important. For some consumers, such is their purchasing inertia that the decision making process is devoid of any ethical considerations. For others, ethical views are displayed through post purchase dissonance and retrospective feelings such as guilt. Some consumers display a reluctance to consume ethically due to personal constraints, a perceived negative impact on image or quality or an outright negation of responsibility. For many, the desire to consume ethically is conveyed, yet their cynicism, together with an external locus of control, deters them because they question the impact they, as an individual, can achieve. It is important that future research examines each of the factors identified here to better understand consumers purchasing behaviour in this context.
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Journal: Journal of Business Ethics
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. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.