Conscious Consumption

Good Intentions – Thoughtless Buying Decisions: Understanding and Breaking Barriers to Ethical Consumption

Rebecca Walker Reczek, Julie Irwin, and Danny Zane



Keywords: Ethical Products, Ethical Consumption, Fair Labor, Sustainability, Ethical Consumerism, Corporate Social Responsibility

When shopping for fun products, it is often easy to avoid troublesome information. Consumers use coping strategies to maintain a good mood and avoid the emotional difficulty of thinking about ideas such as labor mistreatment or environmental problems. In addition to not seeking ethical information or misremembering it, consumers also negatively judge others who do not remain willfully ignorant.Companies can act against undesirable short- and long-term effects of consumers’ coping strategies. They can provide information about ethical product aspects right when consumers make their purchase decisions and they can reduce consumers’ effort to collect such information. Also, companies should refrain from comparing more and less ethical consumers. The timing and availability of ethical information are crucial to prevent a vicious cycle. Consumers who make ethical decisions themselves should feel less compelled to think negatively of other ethical consumers, which should encourage them to continue being ethical consumers in the future.

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Rebecca Walker Reczek, Berry Chair of New Technologies in Marketing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA, reczek.3@osu.edu

Julie R. Irwin, Marlene and Morton Meyerson Centennial Professor of Business, The University of Texas at Austin, USA, julie.irwin@mccombs.utexas.edu

Daniel M. Zane, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA; dzane@lehigh.edu