The role of ethics is consumer decision making

Authors: Bray, J.

Conference: EIRASS

Dates: 9-12 July 2012


It has been well documented that consumer awareness and interest in environmental and ethical issues has been growing for many years (Williams et al. 2006; Scott 2009; Smithers 2010). There is evidence that ethical considerations are impacting on a broad range of purchasing decisions including clothing lines with all of the largest UK fashion chains investing in lines accredited by the Fair Trade association or utilising Organically sourced cotton. Clothing purchase decision making is likely to differ significantly from the considerations made when buying other goods due to the conspicuous consumption and the enhanced communicative role that clothing items perform. (Schiffman et al. 2008, Wang et al. 2004). The clothing sector of the retail industry is second in size only to that of food, and commands sales of £47bn each year in the UK, some 15% of total retail expenditure (Euromonitor 2011). It is therefore important that consumer influences in decision making process are fully understood. To date, the area of ethical fashion has attracted only limited academic and commercial research (Jorgens 2006).

This research study provides the first thorough examination of the role ethical considerations play in the selection of clothing lines. It has employed a mixed methodological approach, using inductive qualitative research in the form of semi-structured interviews and three focus groups to probe the phenomena sufficiently to enable the most effective design of a large quantitative survey. The resultant questionnaire was distributed to 3000 random UK addresses assuring a sample as representative of the population as a whole was gained.

Analysis of these data have identified four discrete influences that ethical considerations can exert on the decision making process. The scale of influence has been assessed relative to other choice criterion, and key consumer segments have been discerned outlining the demongraphic profile of the most ethically and environmentally conscientious shopper.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Jeffery Bray