Why are consumers willing to spend more money on ethical products?

What motivates consumers to make ethical choices such as buying clothing not made in a sweat shop, spending more money on fair-trade coffee, and bringing their own bags when they go shopping? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, ethical consumption is motivated by a need for consumers to turn their emotions about unethical practices into action.

"Advocates of ethical consumerism suggest that should consider the environmental and human costs of the products they choose, but unfortunately only a small number of people in North America consume ethically on a regular basis while most consumers just look for good deals and ignore the social impact of the products they buy. Why are some consumers willing to spend time, money, and energy on making more responsible choices?" writes author Ahir Gopaldas (Fordham University).

After analyzing dozens of websites of and companies driven by ethical mission statements, and conducting at-home interviews with people who identify as ethical consumers, the author identified three common emotions driving ethical behavior—contempt, concern, and celebration.

Contempt happens when ethical consumers feel anger and disgust toward the corporations and governments they consider responsible for environmental pollution and labor exploitation. Concern stems from a concern for the victims of rampant consumerism, including workers, animals, ecosystems, and future generations. Celebration occurs when ethical consumers experience joy from making responsible choices and hope from thinking about the collective impact of their individual choices.

Advocates of ethical consumerism should consider the role of emotions in motivating consumers to make more responsible decisions. For example, anger can motivate consumers to reject unethical products and concern can encourage consumers to increase charitable donations, while joy and hope can lead consumers to cultivate ethical habits such as participating in recycling programs.

"This research has critical implications for advocacy groups, ethical brand managers, and anyone else trying to encourage mainstream consumers to make more ethical choices. It is simply not enough to change people's minds. To change society, one must also change people's hearts. Sentiments ignite passion, fuel commitment, and literally move people to action," the author concludes.


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More information: Ahir Gopaldas. "Marketplace Sentiments." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2014.
Journal information: Journal of Consumer Research

Citation: Why are consumers willing to spend more money on ethical products? (2014, September 16) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-09-consumers-money-ethical-products.html
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Sep 16, 2014
I guess I don't have any empathy then because being on a fixed budget I tend to go for the lowest price and not 'green' stuff unless it's priced comparatively.
I simply can't afford to buy "politically correct"

Sep 16, 2014
"Ethical consumers should be commended for wanting to improve the plight of needy farmers in the so-called global South, but fair trade is the wrong instrument to achieve this objective. The premiums charged for fair-trade products are just another direct farm subsidy. Admittedly, those subsidies are miniscule in comparison with the ones that OECD governments hand out. (In 2010, retail sales of fair-trade-labeled products totaled about $5.5 billion, with about $66 million premium -- or about 1.2 percent of total retail sales -- reaching the participating producers.) But there is irony and inefficiency in counteracting one subsidy with another, especially since consumers in developed countries ultimately pay both, either through taxes or at high-end supermarkets such as Whole Foods."
http://www.foreig...ir-trade

'Ethical' consumers harm, not help.

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