Behind Ethical Consumption

Purchasing motives and marketing strategies for organic food products, non-GMOs, bio-fuels

by Gianluigi Guido (Author)
©2009 Monographs XII, 183 Pages


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.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • 1. Ethics in consumer buying
  • 1.1. An introduction
  • 1.2. The study of determinants of ethical consumption
  • 1.2.1. The articulation of the book
  • 1.3. Conclusions
  • 2. The influence of moral norms and self-identity in the choice of organic food products
  • 2.1. Introduction
  • 2.2. Organic food products, moral norms and self-identity
  • 2.2.1. The nature of organic food products and organic agriculture
  • 2.2.2. Motives for organic food purchase
  • 2.2.3. The identification of determinants influencing organic food purchase: The Theory of planned behavior and its extension
  • The Theory of planned behavior and the purchase of organic food products
  • 2.3. Aim and objectives
  • 2.3.1. Research hypotheses
  • 2.4. Methodology and results
  • 2.4.1. The pilot study
  • 2.4.2. The main study
  • 2.4.3. Results
  • 2.5. Effects for consumer psychology and marketing strategies
  • 2.5.1. Discussion
  • 2.5.2. Managerial implications
  • 2.5.3. Limitations and future research
  • 3. Effects of product personality, moral norms and moral disengagement on the intention to buy organic food products
  • 3.1. Introduction
  • 3.2. Determinants of intention to buy organic food products
  • 3.2.1. The consumer of organic food products
  • 3.2.2. The Prospect method
  • The Five-factor model of personality
  • The Theory of planned behavior
  • 3.2.3. Moral antecedents in the purchasing of organic food products
  • Moral disengagement
  • 3.3. Methodology
  • 3.3.1. Research objectives
  • 3.3.2. Procedure
  • The pilot study
  • The main study
  • 3.4. Results
  • 3.4.1. Determinants of the purchase intention of organic food products
  • 3.4.2. Results of the moral disengagement scale
  • 3.4.3. The Prospect method
  • The latent dimensions of organic food product image
  • The influence of the image dimensions on the determinants of intention
  • 3.5. General discussion
  • 3.6. Implications and future research
  • 3.7. Conclusions
  • 4. The impact of ethical self-identity and safety concerns on attitudes and purchasing intentions of organic food products
  • 4.1. Introduction
  • 4.2. Antecedents of organic food purchase intentions
  • 4.3. Purpose of the study and methodological framework.
  • 4.4. Methodology
  • 4.4.1. Sampling
  • 4.4.2. Measures
  • 4.5. Results
  • 4.5.1. Reliability analysis
  • 4.5.2. Descriptive analysis
  • 4.5.3. Hypotheses testing
  • 4.6. Discussion and implications
  • 4.7. Limitations and future research
  • 4.8. Conclusions
  • 5. Effects of attitude and personal values on the purchase intention of genetically modified food products
  • 5.1. Introduction
  • 5.2. Theoretical models to analyze cultural differences
  • 5.3. The nature of attitude towards GM food
  • 5.4. Aim and objectives
  • 5.5. Methodology
  • 5.5.1. Sampling procedure
  • 5.5.2. Measures and questionnaire
  • 5.6. Results
  • 5.6.1. Reliability analysis
  • 5.6.2. Descriptive analysis
  • 5.6.3. Hypotheses testing
  • 5.7. Discussion
  • 5.8. Implications
  • 5.9. Limitations and future research
  • 5.10. Conclusions
  • 6. Determinants of consumers’ acceptance of fuels from biological materials and hydrogen transportation technologies …
  • 6.1. Introduction
  • 6.2. Bio-fuels and hydrogen transportation technologies
  • 6.2.1. Bio-fuels in the transportation industry
  • 6.2.2. Hydrogen technologies in the transportation industry
  • 6.3. Study One: Beliefs determining acceptance of bio-fuels
  • 6.3.1. Aims and objectives
  • 6.3.2. Sampling
  • 6.3.3. Procedure
  • 6.3.4. Results of Study One
  • 6.4. Study Two: Beliefs determining acceptance of hydrogen transportation technologies
  • 6.4.1. Aims and objectives
  • 6.4.2. Sampling
  • 6.4.3. Procedure
  • 6.4.4. Results of Study Two
  • 6.5. General discussion
  • 6.5.1. Acceptance of bio-fuels in the transportation industry …
  • 6.5.2. Acceptance of hydrogen in the transportation industry.
  • 6.5.3. Conclusions
  • References
  • Authors
  • Index
  • Series Index

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Gianluigi Guido

1.   Ethics in consumer buying

1.1.   An introduction

This volume is based on a research program that I conceived and directed, in Italy, at the University of Salento in Lecce, and both at LUISS University and at Sapienza University in Rome, on the topic of motives behind ethical consumption.

The area of ethical decision-making is vast (Cooper-Martin and Holbrook 1993), and so it is difficult to find an adequate definition for “ethical consumption”. One must first define the moral base of ethical consumerism (Caruana 2007). According to Crane and Matten (2004: 11), “morality is concerned with the norms, values and beliefs embedded in social processes which define right and wrong for an individual or community.” Morality constitutes the object of ethics, envisaged as a branch of philosophy, applicable to human choices. From this, it follows therefore that, when one considers consumer choices, ethical consumption can be defined as “the degree to which consumers prioritize their own ethical concerns when making product choices” (Shaw and Clarke 1998: 163). Specifically, “ethical consumption” can be considered a consumer philosophy akin to so-called “fair trade” – a market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability – as well as “green consumerism”, not to mention “voluntary simplicity” (Connolly and Shaw 2006). The latter understood as the downshifting of maximum consumption – and, possibly, income – in response to an inner moral tension which drives one to satisfy not only one’s material desires but also one’s spiritual urges and ethical commitments (Shaw and Newholm 2002). ← 1 | 2 →

Individuals engaged in ethical consumption – so-called ethical consumers – are socially-conscious consumers who take into account the public consequences of their private acts of consumption and who can also use their power to bring about social change (Newholm and Shaw 2007). Ethical consumers can express themselves, therefore, in various ways (Harper and Makatouni 2002) ranging from simply buying products which are not harmful to society or the environment, or which respect animal and human rights, such as free-range eggs, to more complex and committed behaviors, like boycotting goods produced by child labor.1 They choose, buy, and evaluate products (Wheale and Hinton 2007) or consciously behave in a certain way (Clarke 2006; Shaw et al. 2005) which is consistent with their moral norms and their espousal of certain environmental and societal issues, such as opposition to pollution, animal testing, oppressive regimes, illegal working conditions, the arms trade, and so on. Consequently, ethical consumer is a term that covers a very wide spectrum of person.

This phenomenon has been increasing in intensity, as clearly emerges from a recent study conducted at an international level by Manget, Roche and Münnich (2009) at the Boston Consulting Group. The results of this survey show, for example, that 50% of consumers worldwide buy “green” products, that are eco-friendly. The origins for the rise in ethical consumerism from the end of the 20th century onwards are traceable, according to many scholars, to increased media coverage and greater access to information, as well as a better availability of such products, to a greater awareness of the expression of ← 2 | 3 → one’s own consumer behaviors, and to the desire to escape from the risks associated with consumption in an individualistic society, in those cases where traditions lose their influence as guides to behavior which may be beneficial to those cultures (cf. Newholm and Shaw 2007).

Yet, aside from these motives which relate to factors beyond the decision-makers’ control, that is, which are not directly determined by each consumer, it is fitting to investigate the personal motivations that drive an individual to consume in a certain way. It is far from certain, indeed, that there exists such a thing as an “ethical consumer” tout court as distinct from a “traditional consumer” (cf. Carrigan and Attalla 2001): considering the wide range of activities which may be undertaken by consumers to fulfill their moral obligations, it is relevant to evaluate the intrinsic motives which may push consumers to “act ethically”, whether they are acting sincerely, thus absolving their moral duties, or whether they are merely adapting, e.g. submitting to social pressures of the community in which they live.


XII, 183
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2009 (August)
Marktforschung Unternehmenstechnik Ecology and Environmental Science
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. XII, 183 pp.

Biographical notes

Gianluigi Guido (Author)

The Author: Gianluigi Guido (Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK) is Full Professor of Marketing and Place Marketing at the University of Salento, Italy, and Professor of Marketing Research at the LUISS University of Rome. He has been visiting researcher at the Dept of Marketing, University of Florida at Gainesville, and at the Dept of Psychology, University of Stanford (California). Prof. Guido has published eleven books on consumer behaviour and marketing strategies, and more than 100 articles in major referred journals. He has been listed in the last twelve editions of Marquis Who’s Who in the World and in the last six editions of Marquis Who’s Who in Finance & Industry.


Title: Behind Ethical Consumption