Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 139–158

Why Ethical Consumers Don’t Walk Their Talk: Towards a Framework for Understanding the Gap Between the Ethical Purchase Intentions and Actual Buying Behaviour of Ethically Minded Consumers


    • University of Melbourne
  • Benjamin A. Neville
    • University of Melbourne
  • Gregory J. Whitwell
    • University of Melbourne

DOI: 10.1007/s10551-010-0501-6

Cite this article as:
Carrington, M.J., Neville, B.A. & Whitwell, G.J. J Bus Ethics (2010) 97: 139. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0501-6


Despite their ethical intentions, ethically minded consumers rarely purchase ethical products (Auger and Devinney: 2007, Journal of Business Ethics76, 361–383). This intentions–behaviour gap is important to researchers and industry, yet poorly understood (Belk et al.: 2005, Consumption, Markets and Culture8(3), 275–289). In order to push the understanding of ethical consumption forward, we draw on what is known about the intention–behaviour gap from the social psychology and consumer behaviour literatures and apply these insights to ethical consumerism. We bring together three separate insights – implementation intentions (Gollwitzer: 1999, American Psychologist54(7), 493–503), actual behavioural control (ABC) (Ajzen and Madden: 1986, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology22, 453–474; Sheeran et al.: 2003, Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 393–410) and situational context (SC) (Belk: 1975, Journal of Consumer Research2, 157–164) – to construct an integrated, holistic conceptual model of the intention–behaviour gap of ethically minded consumers. This holistic conceptual model addresses significant limitations within the ethical consumerism literature, and moves the understanding of ethical consumer behaviour forward. Further, the operationalisation of this model offers insight and strategic direction for marketing managers attempting to bridge the intention–behaviour gap of the ethically minded consumer.


actual behavioural controlconsumer ethicsethical consumerismimplementation intentionsintention–behaviour gapperceived behavioural controlsituational contexttheory of planned behaviourword–deed gap

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010