Executive Briefings

Is the So-Called 'Ethical Consumer' Real or Just a Myth?

Many surveys purport to show that even the average consumer is demanding so-called ethical products, such as fair-trade-certified coffee and chocolate, fair-labor-certified garments, cosmetics produced without animal testing, and products made through the use of sustainable technologies. Yet when companies offer such products, they are invariably met with indifference by all but a selected group of consumers.

Is the consumer a cause-driven liberal when surveyed, but an economic conservative at the checkout line? Is the ethical consumer little more than a myth? Although many individuals bring their values and beliefs into purchasing decisions, when actual consumer behavior is examined, the percentage of shopping choices made on a truly ethical basis proved far smaller than most observers believe, and far smaller than is suggested by the anecdotal data presented by advocacy groups.

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Many surveys purport to show that even the average consumer is demanding so-called ethical products, such as fair-trade-certified coffee and chocolate, fair-labor-certified garments, cosmetics produced without animal testing, and products made through the use of sustainable technologies. Yet when companies offer such products, they are invariably met with indifference by all but a selected group of consumers.

Is the consumer a cause-driven liberal when surveyed, but an economic conservative at the checkout line? Is the ethical consumer little more than a myth? Although many individuals bring their values and beliefs into purchasing decisions, when actual consumer behavior is examined, the percentage of shopping choices made on a truly ethical basis proved far smaller than most observers believe, and far smaller than is suggested by the anecdotal data presented by advocacy groups.

Read Full Article