Are You An Ethical Consumer?

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on March 10, 2016 · 0 comments

Advocates of ethical consumption want people to consider the costs to humans and the environment when they purchase products. But only 1 in 4 people are willing to spend more on ethical products. Why are some committed to this idea and others are not? Ahir Gopaldas, a researcher at Fordham University, wanted to understand what motivated people to make ethical choices, such as buying fair trade chocolate or bringing reusable shopping bags when they go shopping.

He found that ethical shopping is driven by sentiments that promote powerful feelings that can transform markets. Consumers turn their emotions into action. Ethical shopping sentiments can be roughly divided into 3 categories: contempt, concern and celebration.

Contempt happens when a shopper turns their anger or disgust against a company or brand that they believe may be causing pollution, handling animals cruelly, or exploiting workers. The consumer can shop ethically by avoiding or boycotting the brand in question and perhaps educating others about their concerns.

If a shopper is driven by concern, they identify a victim – the ecosystem, workers, animals, water, even future generations – that be being harmed if a consumer buys a particular brand or food.

The sentiment celebration is the driving force when a consumer experiences pleasure by making responsible buying choices that they believe cultivates ethical habits. They may buy only fair trade coffee or free range eggs, or participate in recycling programs.

To change behavior it is necessary to tap into the sentiment that drives a person to make shopping decisions. Sentiments ignite passion, fuel commitment and literally move people into action that can have a profound effect on the marketplace.

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