Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 139–158 | Cite as

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

  • Michal J. Carrington
  • Benjamin A. Neville
  • Gregory J. Whitwell
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

actual behavioural control consumer ethics ethical consumerism implementation intentions intention–behaviour gap perceived behavioural control situational context theory of planned behaviour word–deed gap 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Ajzen, I. (1985). From Intentions to Actions: A Theory of Planned Behaviour. Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behaviour. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ajzen, I. (2002a). Percieved Behavioural Control, Self-Efficacy, Locus of Control, and the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 665-683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ajzen, I. (2002b). Residual Effects of Past on Later Behaviour: Habituation and Reasoned Action Perspectives. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(2), 107-122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ajzen, I.: 2006, Constructing a TPB Questionnaire: Conceptual and Methodological Considerations. Retrieved September 20, 2009.Google Scholar
  6. Ajzen, I., Brown, T. C., & Carvajal, F. (2004). Explaining the Discrepancy Between Intentions and Actions: The case of Hypothetical Bias in Contingent Valuation. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 30(9), 1108-1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ajzen, I., & Madden, T. J. (1986). Prediction of goal-directed behaviour: Attitudes, intentions and percieved behavioural control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 453-474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Areni, C. and I. Black: 2008, Why Consumers Don’t Do as They Say: Hyperbolic Discounting vs. Temporal Construal Theory. Paper Presented at the International Centre For Anti-Consumption Research Symposium, Sydney, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  9. Armitage, C. J. and M. Conner: 1999, ‘The Theory of Planned Behaviour: Assessment of Predictive Validity and ‘Percieved Control’’, British Journal of Social Psychology 38, 35–54Google Scholar
  10. Armitage, C. J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the Theory of Planned Behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 471-499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Arvola, A., Vassallo, M., Dean, M., Lampila, P., Saba, A., Lahteenmaki, R., et al. (2008). Predicting intentions to purchase organic food: The role of affective and moral attitudes in the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Appetite, 50, 443-454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Auger, P., Burke, P., Devinney, T. M., & Louviere, J. J. (2003). What will Consumers Pay for Social Product Features? Journal of Business Ethics, 42, 281-304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Auger, P., & Devinney, T. M. (2007). Do What Consumers Say Matter? The Misalignment of PReferences with Unconstrained Ethical Intentions. Journal of Business Ethics, 76, 361-383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bagozzi, R. (1993). On the neglect of volition in consumer research: A critique and proposal. Psychology and Marketing, 10, 215-237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bagozzi, R. (2000). The Poverty of Economic Explanations of Consumption and an Action Theory Alternative. Managerial and decision economics, 21, 95-109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bagozzi, R., & Dholakia, U. M. (1999). Goal Setting and Goal Striving in Consumer Behaviour. Journal of Marketing 63, 19-32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman.Google Scholar
  18. Bandura, A. (1998). Health promotion from the perspective of social cognitive theory. Psychology and Health, 13, 623-649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Belk, R. (1975). Situational Variables and Consumer Behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 2, 157-164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Belk, R., Devinney, T. M., & Eckhardt, G. (2005). Consumer Ethics Across Cultures. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 8(3), 275-289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Boulstridge, E., & Carrigan, M. (2000). Do consumers really care about corporate responsibility? Highlighting the attitude-behaviour gap. Journal of Communication Management, 4(4), 355-368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Carrigan, M., & Attalla, A. (2001). The myth of the ethical consumer - do ethics matter in purchase behaviour? Journal of Consumer Marketing, 18(7), 560-577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Carrigan, M., Szmigin, I., & Wright, J. (2004). Shopping for a better world? An interpretive study of the potential for ethical consumption within the older market. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 21(6), 401-417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Chatzidakis, A., Hibbert, S., & Smith, A. P. (2007). Why People Don’t Take their Concerns about Fair Trade to the Supermarket: The Role of Neutralisation. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 89-100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Connolly, J., & Shaw, D. (2006). Identifying fair trade in consumption choice. Journal of strategic marketing, 14, 353-368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2004). Business Ethics: A European Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitiative and Mixed Methods Approaches (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Davies, J., Foxall, G. R., & Pallister, J. (2002). Beyond the Intention-Behaviour Mythology: An Integrated Model of Recycling. Marketing Theory, 2(1), 29-113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do Consumers Care about Ethics? Willingness to Pay for Fair-Trade Coffee. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 39(2), 363-385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. De Pelsmacker, P., & Janssens, W. (2007). A Model for Fair Trade Buying Behaviour: The Role of Perceived Quantity and QUality of Information and Product-specific Attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 75, 361-380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dholakia, U. M., Bagozzi, R., & Gopinath, M. (2007). How Formulating Implementation Plans and Remembering Past Actions Facilitate the Enactment of Effortful Decisions. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 20, 343-364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Edmondson, A. C., & McManus, S. E. (2007). Methodological Fit in Management Field Research. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1155-1179.Google Scholar
  33. Elliot, R., & Jankel-Elliot, N. (2003). Using Ethnography in Strategic Consumer Research. Qualitative Market Reserach: An International Journal, 6(4), 215-223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fairtrade, F. L. O. I. (2007). Annual Report 2007: An Inspiration for Change (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, Bonn, DE).Google Scholar
  35. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behaviour: An introduction to theory and research. Reading: Addison - Wesley.Google Scholar
  36. Follows, S. B., & Jobber, D. (2000). Environmentally responsible purchase behavior: a test of a consumer model. European Journal of Marketing, 34(5/6), 723-746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Foxall, G. R. (1993). A Behaviourist Perspective on Purchase and Consumption. European Journal of Marketing, 27(8), 7-16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Freestone, O., & McGoldrick, P. (2008). Motivations of the Ethical Consumer. Journal of Business Ethics, 79, 445-467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fukukawa, K. (2003). A Theoretical Review of Business and Consumer Ethics Research: Normative and Descriptive Approaches. The Marketing Review, 3, 381-401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Futerra, S. C. L. (2005). The Rules of the Game: The Principals of Climate Change Communication. London, UK: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.Google Scholar
  41. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1993). Goal Achievement: The role of intentions (Vol. 4). Chichester, England: Wiley.Google Scholar
  42. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: a meta-analysis of effects and processes. Advances in experiemental social psychology, 38, 69-119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hobson, K. (2006). Environmental psychology and the geographies of ethical and sustainable consumption: aligning, triangulating, challenging? Area, 38(3), 292-300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hunt, S., & Vitell, S. (1986). A General Theory of Marketing Ethics. Journal of Macromarketing, 6, 5-16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hunt, S., & Vitell, S. (2006). The General Theory of Marketing Ethics: A Revision and Three Questions. Journal of Macromarketing, 26(2), 143-153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jackson, T.: 2005, Motivating Sustainable Consump- tion—A Review of Models of Consumer Behaviour and Behavioural Change. A Report to the Sustainable Development Research Network. London: Policy Studies InstituteGoogle Scholar
  48. Kidwell, B., & Jewell, R. D. (2003). An Examination of Percieved Behavioral Control: Internal and External Influences on Intention. Psycology & Marketing, 20(7), 625-642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kraft, P., Rise, J., Sutton, S., & Roysamb, E. (2005). Percieved difficulty in the theory of planned behaviour: Perceived behavioural control or affective attitude?. British Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 479-496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McEachern, M. G., M. J. A. Schroder, J. Willock, J. Whitelock and R. Mason: 2007, ‘Exploring Ethical Brand Extensions and Consumer Buying Behaviour: The RSPCA and the “Freedom Food” Brand’, Journal of Product & Brand Management 16(3), 168–177Google Scholar
  51. McGrath, J. E. (1994). Methodology Matters: Doing Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  52. Morwitz, V. G., Johnson, E., & Schmittlein, D. (1993). Does Measuring Intent Change Behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 46-61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Morwitz, V. G., Steckel, J. H., & Gupta, A. (2007). When do purchase intentions predict sales? International Journal of Forecasting, 23, 347-364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Newholm, T. (2005). Case Studying Ethical Consumers’ Projects and Strategies. In R. Harrison, T. Newholm & D. Shaw (Eds.), The Ethical Consumer. London: Sage Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  55. Newholm, T., & Shaw, D. (2007). Studying the ethical consumer: A review of research. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 6, 253-270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Norton, W. (2003). ‘After-the-fact causality’: a different direction for cultural geography. Area, 35(4), 418-426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Notani, A. S. (1998). Moderators of Percieved Behavioural Control’s Predictiveness in the Theory of Planned Behaviour: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 7(3), 247-271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ozcaglar-Toulouse, N., Shui, E., & Shaw, D. (2006). In search of fair trade: ethical consumer decision making in France. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 30(5), 502-514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Perugini, M., & Conner, M. (2000). Predicting and understanding behavioral volitions: the interplay between goals and behaviors. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, 705-731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Phillips, H. (1993). How customers actually shop:customer interaction with the point of sale. Journal of the Market Research Society, 35(1), 51-59.Google Scholar
  61. Podsakoff, P. M., & Organ, D. W. (1986). Self-Reports in Organizational Research: Problems and Prospects. Journal of Management, 12(4), 531-544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Polonsky, M. J. (1995). A stakeholder theory approach to designing environmental marketing strategy. The Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 10(3), 29-46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Pullman, M., & Gross, M. (2004). Ability of Experience Design Elements to Elicit Emotions and Loyalty Behaviours. Decision Sciences, 35(3), 551-578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rest, J. R.: 1979, Development in Judging Moral Issues (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis)Google Scholar
  65. Shaw, D., & Clarke, I. (1999). Belief formation in ethical consumer groups: an exploratory study. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 17(2), 109-119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shaw, D., & Connolly, J. (2006). Identifying fair trade in consumption choice. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 14(4), 353-368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Shaw, D., Newholm, T., & Dickinson, R. (2006). Consumption as voting: an exploration of consumer empowerment. European Journal of Marketing, 40(9), 1049-1067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shaw, D., E. Shiu and I. Clarke: 2000, ‘The Contribution of Ethical Obligation and Self-Identity to the Theory of Planned Behaviour: An Exploration of Ethical Consumers’, Journal of Marketing Management 16, 879–894Google Scholar
  69. Shaw, D., Shiu, E., Hassan, L., Bekin, C., & Hogg, G. (2007). Intending To Be Ethical: An Examination of Consumer Choice in Sweatshop Avoidance. Advances in Consumer Research, 34, 31-38.Google Scholar
  70. Shaw, D., & Shui, E. (2002). An assessment of ethical obligation and self-identity in ethical consumer decision-making: a structural equaiton modelling approach. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 26(4), 286-293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sheeran, P., Trafimow, D., & Armitage, C. J. (2003). Predicting behaviour from percieved behavioural control: Tests of the accuracy assumption of the theory of planned behaviour. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 393-410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a Coherant Theory of Environmentally Significant Behaviour. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 407-424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sutton, S. (1998). Predicting and Explaining Intentions and Behavior: How Well Are We Doing? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28(15), 1317-1338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Trafimow, D., Sheeran, P., Conner, M., & Finlay, K. (2002). Evidence that percieved behavioural control is a multidimensional construct: Perceived control and perceived difficulty. British Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 101-121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Turley, L., & Milliman, R. (2000). Atmospheric Effects on Shopping Behaviour: A Review of the Experiemental Evidence. Journal of Business Research, 49, 193-211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Ulrich, P., & Sarasin, C. (1995). Facing Public Interest: The Ethical Challenge to Business Policy and Corportate Communications. London: Kluwer Academic Publications.Google Scholar
  77. Vermeir, I., & Verbeke, W. (2007). Sustainable food consumption among young adults in Belgium: Theory of Planned Behaviour and the role of confidence and values. Ecological Economics, 64, 542-553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Vitell, S. (2003). Consumer Ethics Research: Review, Synthesis and Suggestions for the future. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 33-47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Webb, T., & Sheeran, P. (2007). How do implementation intentions promote goal attainment? A test of component processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 295-302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Young, M. R., DeSarbo, W. S., & Morwitz, V. G. (1998). The Stochastic Modeling of Purchase Intentions and Behaviour. Management Science, 44(2), 188-202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Zaltman, G.: 2003, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal J. Carrington
    • 1
  • Benjamin A. Neville
    • 1
  • Gregory J. Whitwell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations