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What is the concept Consumer ethics

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 4744 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Consumers decision on the basis of firms ethical ground is not a new concept. The importance of ethics in business (both product and service oriented firms) is studied and accepted even in non-academic literature (Christian Aid Abroad 2002). Consumers willingness to buy and get benefit from companies’ practice of ethics has particularly been praised and studied in Academic Literature (Al-Khatib, Vitell et al 1997). There are many issues the academic literature has richly studied and focused on e.g. the reason for customers to boycott a particular firm’s products, to pay only for socially acceptable products, the consumer perception of a company’s products and code of ethics (Battacharya et al, 2001) are just a few to be mentioned.

This work also gives us a complete sketch to measure the consumer behaviour (Roberts 1996) in order to purchase certain ethical products i.e. environmentally safe products (Belk, Lascu, Manrai, Manrai and Ryans 1997, Semenik 1981).

This literature can be summarizing with the help of different ways just because of different findings, (for comprehensive review see Smaka 2004). Generally we can say that in the first instance doubt do exist related to the ethically oriented consumers. Composition and size of this group is the second difference that either it is situational or not such as; purchase environment. Roberts (1996) mentioned 18-item scale for using with a conclusion that

demographic variables variance is very little

the existence of non-ethical consumers (39% of the respondents mentioned no ethical concerns)

The relationship of environmental and social concern is weak regarding consumer action.

Detail studies also through light on the consumer choice related to a specific product or products with socially attributes i.e. environmental problems while relating to biodegradability like child labour. Clusters of responsible consumers exist in so many countries showed by Auger et al. (2003, 2004 a, b) but that is very difficult to know that who is in that ex ante based such as; gender, age, education, ethnicity and so on.

Past behaviour comparing and relating to the social issues is the most important predictor for future ethical behaviour i.e. Amnesty International. Ethical attitude and to measure the consumption ethics is not related to the actual behaviour (Auger and Devinney 2005).

To know that either, the ethical behaviour is affected or not can be judge by the price which is paid and from the nature of the product.

Auger et al. (2003, 2004a) mentioned categories that consumer heterogeneity do exists like; price sensitivity with respect of labour rights. Low involvement required low price of the products like bath soaps etc. more or high price sensitive consumers is less ethically oriented. High price high involvement (sports shoes) there was no such relationship between the price sensitivity and ethics.

Elliott and Freeman (2001) point out flexibility of high or more price products made under bad labour while the low price products under suitable environments, so it shows that the companies will earn in bad conditions while lose in the good environments.

Such kinds of discussions are supported by Flokes and Kamins (1999). They mentioned that the various attitudes of the consumers in respect of a particular organization can be affected through unethical behaviour against by pro-social behaviour. The less famous or inferior product could not be compensate by the pro-social behaviour while the unethical behaviour has great influence on the attitudes even though the product might be of superior character.

So for doing bad than from good can assist in respect of consumer evaluation of corporate (CSR) behaviour (Bhattacharya and Sen 2004).

Costs and rewards are the third individuals react. The key seven constructs (cost, social and personal norms personal benefits, awareness of result, trust, and responsibility) of influence are studied by Osterhus (1997) and made a model to predict pro-social consumer behaviour. Osterhus (1997) mentioned that;

Normative affects cannot be easily translate and describe into behaviour (consistent with Roberts 1996)

From personal costs and rewards people are highly influenced. Tan (2002) reinforced these findings. Tan found the same type of result while purchasing the pirated software.

Culture and Consumer Ethics:

No society of the world can exist without a culture, and ethics is the most important part of a culture, to study and investigate the ethical choices while ignoring the clearly cultural context is not very much realistic. It is the prediction that different consumption cultural reactions would occur because each culture is different from the other and there is also difference in social roles, welfare expectations, gender roles, institutional structures, laws, privileges and obligations etc.

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Culture plays vital role regarding our perceptions of good and responsible consumption and that what will be the consequences of violating the social and moral norms. To know that what is good for the individual and what is good for the society depend on our different conceptions. But the decision related to ethical breach is fully depending on cultural orientation.

The impact of culture on the ethics has been studied by the authors and most of the experts concentrated on the intention to purchase differences (Singhapakdi, Vitell, and Leelakulthanit 1994; Al -Khatib, Vitell and Rawwas 1997). Basically there is a draw back in these studies as studied by Auger et as. (2004b), they mentioned that worst small and minor differences and affect from the scale in equivalence issues and problems. It is mainly known from the work that invariably tries to seek out various between the upper and predetermined groups and almost utilizing a chain of known as good or best worst experiments. There are variance not only between different countries but among the same country individuals as well in respect of 16 different social issues ranging, gender, and sexual rights to recycling, labour, animal testing and biodegradability (Auger et al. 2004b).

Materialism in the U.S, Romania, Turkey and Western Europe has been studied in the interpretive work on behaviours of Ger and Belk (1999). They mentioned that in the said areas they condemned materialism as a social, shallow and valuable consumption orientation some of them desired higher salaries, furnished house, valuable and nice car, and other sorts of materialistic services and goods. So for what was varying in culture that was in a very small and miner portion in which the behaviours were judged in the light of materialism.

For excuses and justification they are using different sorts of accounts to explain their desires. Like the White or Americans consider themselves deserved because of the following characteristics i.e. clever, wise and hard working etc. The Romanians have their own explanation for deserving i.e. Communism. The ancient people of the Turks felt that they are not materialistic and they couldn’t desire or want anything materially while the Western Europeans seem to say that the Americans are the actual materialists and they are fond of wine and good food, music etc. and that point out that it is not materialistic at all. To justify and explain their materialistic behaviour and save from being condemnation of materialism each and every culture has their own reasons and they consider it being reasonable.

It shows that there might not be much cultural differences with regards to preferences of social problems and issues. The differences may be in the rationales consumers use in respect of the ethical dimension of consumption way and patterns. The need is that we have to bother ourselves and know that either culture might influence on ethical consumerism or not. In this work we adopt the interpretive way as a tool or means of composing the meaning and affects and influence of ethics in consumption preferences. This tool or method is very much capable to uncover paradoxes the behaviour and thought to know about the consumer thought rationales and justifications (Ger and Belk 1999) to make it suitable to examine the scenario wherein the population behaviours and attitudes are different. Along this, this method also gives us approach to examine the sensitive influences and affects of culture.

Fair Trade Consumption

Over the last year Fair trade consumption is becoming familiar very rapidly in general while in the UK particular. UK is now almost the biggest market in Europe for fair trade goods. The boom of “political” or “ethical” consumption defines the different concepts of the consumer’s (Sassatelli 2006: 231), claims that the citizens/consumer are being politicised and mostly they see themselves as “economic voters” (Shaw, Newholm et al. 2006, Micheletti and Stolle 2007). The remaining questions related to the involvement of hedonistic, motives vs. Altruistic motivations (Levi and Linton 2003, Daniel, Bricas et al. 2008), is that to know that either altruism is a problem at all or not, or should we know to be more specific to write discuss about a new platform of hedonism (Soper 2007) so in that we might count one of it as a motives which gives us the strength like for ‘warm glow’ (Leclair 2002: 954) and to know joy and make sure that our own humanity (Gould 2003: 343) a very good or ‘feel good’ factor, this also known as a positive identity (Zadek, Lingayah et al. 1998: 32f).

Barnett, Cloke et al. (2005) mentioned that moral self hood the integral part of ethical consumption also known as ‘moral selving’ came to black in white form from the very recent research while in ethical consumption the determining point and factor is the self identity which is very important and was acknowledge very before from the findings those were practising around the fair-trade consumptions which can be seen as moral dimension (Shaw and Shiu 2002). Anyhow that is not fully expressed i.e. morally conspicuous consumption. This can show the upper hand of owns lifestyle over the others (Shaw and Clarke 1999: 116) so the vital aspect which seems to be the important one might be the self reassurance for being socially and morally acceptable person. Therefore in this paper we adopted the approach which was also suggested by Campbell (1990) because we have to know and understand the very genuine reasons that people give it for their own and for the others “type of person” which they wish to be (Sassatelli 2006: 237). The basic purpose of this work is to know about the ethical selving works (Barnett et al. 2005: 28) or an underlying moral self (Allahyari 2004: 4) within the actual practices of consumptions to established the way and patterns of legitimacy. Here we will have to acknowledge that for such kind of work ethical subjects neither logic nor morality implied is important.

For self expression the element of conspicuousness and the needs of social affirmation are very important. It is just like the Veblen’s (1994) ‘conspicuous consumption’ (Brown 1998, Varul 2006). It is very important to understand the Fair-trade because of both emerging and negating granted legitimacy. Basically justice is rooted in practice and not only an affirmative way (Pitkin 1972: 175ff). We are trying to find such aspects which are new and emerging from the commerce and consumption practices (cf. Warde 2005: 140) and not the philosophical tradition (cf. Barnett, Cafaro et al. 2005).

In societies like Europe and America the fair trade consumption can be found and that is according to our hypotheses that capitalism provides such background either it is working in or against the market (Brown 1993: 156) just because that it need to play with the moral assumptions that can be or could be workable by market practices. Day by day the recognition and equitability is improving and to give or inform the morality of exchange (Varul 2005a, 2005b) which is workable in the fair trade. The very basic assumption is that the northern societies are fair in commercial relations is to generalize over the globe (Fridell 2003: 6) with the help of consumer democracy (Waridel 2002: 21ff).

The fair trade in the past time and the post colonial times like ours may use the goods and services that may under attack. But it is not enough and not mean that the identities are holy solely cosmopolitan (Sassatelli 2006: 226). According to Pedregal (2007) the good example is the French case which provides a pathway to fair trade consumption.

It is very good to compare UK with Germany because of several reasons like;

The sales of fair trade products are very less in Germany (Krier 2005).

Because of available literature which shows the model that in Europe have a special capitalism model (Lane 1995) for economic actions like economic ethics (Marquand/Crouch 1993) different ideas and thoughts related to distributive justice (Andersen 1990, Mau 2004) and with the help of different flagship fair trade products like cocoa, tea and coffee etc. Pratt (1992: 7) point out strategies of representation where European countries working to save their market and make the fare trade as long-lasting and it is our main concern which in other words called anti conquest (Johnston 2002) the very visible difference between the mentioned countries cannot be just waste or without consequences (Said 2003, Kontje 2004).

Ethical, Environmental and Green Consumption

Ethical consumers have been defined by different experts in different words. Some mentioned that it is those consumers who are familiar and aware from environmental animal and ethical issues (Shaw et al. 2005 a, p. 185).

According to Martin and Holbrook (1993: 113) “Ethical consumption behaviours, also called ethical consumerism, are decision making, purchases, or other consumption experiences that are affected by the consumer’s ethical concerns”.

Shaw and Shiu (2003) argues that to create awareness among the people regarding organic food and increased the population interest in the field of farming and the harm to the natural environment ethical concerns are mostly liable and responsible for that.

According to Carrigan et al. (2004) mentioned that ethical consumption is the deliberate choice to draw and make specific choices related to consumption on the bases of personal and moral beliefs.

Ethical consumption is nowadays not a new terminology because it is used widely and it is responsible and liable for the new market practice which might target the ethical consumers and it consists of the following points which mentioned by Shaw et al. (2005b: 186).

Market for the organic food or produce

Ethical investment products etc.

To create market for the fair trade products

To create interest of the media in fair trade issues and problems

To create and increase the responsibility and dealer power.

Ethical Consumption and Competitive Advantage

According to Strong (1996: 11) those organizations which are aware from the social and ethical issues such as green consumerism they can also take the competitive benefit from the ethical consumerism.

Tallontire et al. (2000) point out that there are different types of ethical consumerism i.e.

Positive ethical purchase behaviour: it is related with buying goods

Negative ethical purchase behaviour : it is related with boycotts or to avoid goods

Consumer action or lobbying: it is related with different activities i.e. lobbying and to give or direct certain actions about a specific problem or issues (Tallontire et al. 2000).

Ethical consumers are those consumers who are following the ethical behaviours. It is very important to know and understand that always the opposite and reverse not applicable and cannot be apply.

Carrigan and Szmigin (2004) give brief information and examples related to that like those who are not buying a fair trade cannot be necessarily considered as unethical.

Ethics and Environment

According to Strong (1996) ethical consumers are mostly partial by ethical considerations and mostly it is happing when they are buying the goods and services. This situation occurs when the natural resources and goods are not treated in an appropriate way and it is just consider the part and portion of the whole ecology (Shaw et al. 2005b).

The environmental ethics gives way to the social marketing campaigns. This awareness provides way to the environmental consumerism to reduce the negative impact on the natural environment (Schaefer 2005: 90).

Another very important term is the ‘green consumption’ which is defined as the process or the way to protect the natural environment and animal from pollution by avoiding certain goods and products (Schaefer 2005). Green consumption also represents some sorts of good behaviour like recycling and purchasing those goods and products which are environmentally friendly (Carrigan et al. 2004).

While the ethical behaviour is ongoing and irresolvable, green consumption might be controlled and managed in various social level (Seyfang 2006). This leads to the development of consumer decision making model which thoroughly seen as societal centred suggestions.

Sustainable consumption

The most important definition of sustainability comes from the Brundtland commission (1987), which gives emphasise on the sustainable behaviours to meet their own present needs and not compromise on the future generation needs. This definition gives birth to several questions. Like how and who will define the needs etc. (Schaefer 2005: 77).

According to Schaefer (2005: 77) if we discuses sustainability further so in broader sense it involved the balance between the ecological, economic and social goals and its result and consequences. In this paper work the term sustainability is explained with reference to the environment and society which will give almost promise that the aims of different sorts of community actions will not endanger the long term polices and of the globe which is vital for the life and natural environment. To act and behave in a sustainable way is a long and step by step or gradual process. It is also a move towards the new lifestyle and called a holistic move (Gilg et al. 2005). The term sustainable behaviour is also discussed under the shade of sustainable consumption. This term was used by Spaargaren (2003) and Jackson (2005).

According to Voronoff (2005) sustainable consumption also refers to the different types of activities and practices that consists and include community sustainability and sustainable behaviour (Mckenzie-Mohr and Smith 1999)

Jackson (2005) also discussed the pro environmental behaviours and these sorts of behaviour can be very short term i.e. recycling or to buy organic foods. So for long term polices and solutions are related it involves the new dams’ construction, solar panels and also reducing the green house emissions etc. (Routh et al. 2005).

Sustainable consumption is different from the ethical consumption. Sustainable consumption is even nowadays limited to only a few highly committed environmentalists (Schaefer 2005) while the ethical consumption refers to the wide range coverage and behaviours. It is not necessary that all should be related to the ethical consumption but it might be linked with it to certain degree i.e. to boycott certain product because they are using cheap labour is also an ethical choice and not the sustainable choice.

In ethical decision sustainable consumptions can be consider the best possible outcome but not lead to ethical consumption.

According to Back (1992) these sorts of behaviours mostly indicate the individual choice which is depending on the living in the world. It can be seen as a ‘selfless and active practice’ (Cooper-Martin and Holbrook 1993) and it can be conducted within the specified boundaries and in the specific situation i.e. global warming, drought, pollution etc. while not adopting this behaviour (sustainable consumption behaviours) is not very necessarily terrible.

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Ethics and Politics

Each and every society has their rules and regulation and to make and implement the rules their working some sorts of institutions i.e. family institution, religious institution, political institution etc. To regulate the life of the society people political institution plays a vital role in this regard. All the individual of the society are under the influence of this institution. All the activities of the society and its people are planed with the help of this institution. All the social institutions have their own rules and regulation to work in the society but to evaluate the institutions that is mostly related to the politics, ethics and ideology. To explain and describe the economic development this institution rule is also very important. The property rights can also be explained with the help of this institution. From property right we mean that one person recognise the right of the other to hold certain things or objects. In the past societies there was no proper rule and regulation. Those who posses the power can hunt the others etc but from the importance of agriculture 13, 14 thousand years age the rights on land or property has been defined to certain degree for conservation but still there some goods and resources which are impossible or we can say difficult for us to manage it with the help of private property i.e. pollution problems etc. when individuals in certain community are relatively small than the revelation process is a bit practical (Smith 1992). To know more about this the model of land ownership intuitions which is presented by Baker (2003) is very important.

People (politics) the more indirect process to reach the resources become very much popular than the direct process decision. The different countries of the world meet with each other to discuss the different ways and procedures for managing the most important and common valuable resource but the benefits of open market or free ridding are still very much strong. For successful management of the common resources of the world Alier (1998) point out certain cases and mentioned that the small groups are better in this regard. If we look from international point of view so a bit progress occurred i.e. to ban or stop on the CFC gas etc. but so for the question of equity is concerned we can not get successes in this regard only we can be limited to a political or natural disasters. We can motivate the people on a national level but on international level it is difficult because their interest is different i.e. taxpayers.

So for the question of public goods is concerned so on international level most of the political process is the last end and viable end for the social decisions. For political process the model of Joseph and Downs is important. This sort of model sees the political institution and process as neoclassical economics. Those people who are attached with the politics sell their goods while representing the citizens in collective decisions. For this purpose they are getting together in the political parties to meet and share the expenditure. So for the political market is concerned so that should be competitive and not related to barriers to get in or entry, so pure politics depending on competition and not on barriers. Power play central in the political market and the authoritarian has monopoly in the governments. But if think deeply so in the long term polices they had also subject to competition. In competition system the platforms might face some sorts of new problems and the society may ask are raise a questions anywhere.

Those people who are affected may reason this and that might be through privately, media and politicians. In the market new problems are rising some of them might be successful in the politics or in the political market but it is not always in all the cases. Some of them might have the local impact but it might be possible to receive the attention of the inferential attention. Some of the problems are very distractive and some of them might be good for the society as well. But it is necessary to solve the problems with the ideological competition. The implication of economic theory is a very much the similar one to this. In party if the competition rises so the social situation might be very much equivalent and it might be short run. And the long term policies also adjustable for political competition. The rules of right and wrong, and to identify it through corresponding society it is ethics and it is to some extend functional for the survival of a community or society. There are some ethical principals which is very important for the survival of the society and it might be touch with the religion as well (Sollner 1998).

With the help of evolutionary principles we can explain and define the ideologies and the ethics. As we mentioned earlier that neoclassical economics could be explain in a political process as an evolutionary drama (Cronin 1991). Unless and until the good substitute in social sciences is not available so then these sorts of methodologies is good enough.

From environmental impact the question of ethics arises and it is the outcome of consumption and population growth. To regulate social life we might think about ideologies and ethics as common or public services and goods and related to consumption the proposals of Boulding (1966) is also possible for ethics but if they win the minds of the species in the coming time. But still we will have to accept that ethical views are vital for political discussion. The basic issue is related with the natural resources due to uncertainty. So time, a political platform, ethics and ideology are the portion of culture evolution. Because of the complex nature of this theory and the social phenomena predictions are almost impossible for long term or run.

Religiosity and Consumer Ethics

In the past research work of different people mostly the religious aspect of consumer ethics is missing to some extend and here a little bit touch is given to the said area. Religiosity has been classified in two categories by the experts.

Extrinsic: this mostly motivated the people to use the religion

Intrinsic: intrinsic mostly motivated the people lives his religion (Allport and Ross 1967: 434)

According to Vitell and Paolillo (2003) the consumer beliefs (ethical) religiosity is indirectly related to consumer ethics. According to them further research work is required to explore this field (Religiosity and consumer ethics). According to the experts intrinsic religiousness is the basic point which is related to the consumer ethical beliefs (Vitell and Paolillo 2003). Singh (2006) also tried to explore the work of previous authors related to intrinsic religiously and he also came to the conclusion that intrinsic religiosity was the important point of consumer ethics.

Gender Effects

Gener can also be consider an improtant point of ethical attitudes. According to Ford and Richardson (1994) women are more ethical mindend and they behavie more ethicaly than the men. Borkowski and Ugras (1998) coundcated the same kind of reaseach and came to the same kind of conculsion that women are more ethical than the men. This study also give us a bit reflaction that male are less ethical than the women. According to Rawwas (1996) female consumers seem to beave more possitly than the male consumers. The most important point that we might consider it here is that the decision of man and women is different while making different sorts of ethical judgments (Callahan 1990). Mostly women use various sorts of decision to come to the conclusion of specific concern. Men are very simple in their religious decision and the basic reason is that the women are very cause orientated than the man.


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