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Mainstream ethical consumption: The motivations and level of morality of everyday consumers
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Growing issues such as climate crises, social injustice and neglection of basic human rights have created a new type of consumption, namely ethical consumption. Ethical consumption was initially mainly concerned for environmental issues but has in later years starting to include a variety of pressing issues. Ethical consumption was also initially mainly connected to groups of extremists, but with the increasing availability of ethical products in mainstream outlets, ethical consumption has shifted to be a mainstream consumer game.

Mainstream ethical consumption has largely been neglected in previous research where the field is lacking knowledge in form of qualitative behavioral data. Departing from the gap, this study will mainly focus on exploring the motives for ethical consumption in the mainstream consumer segment. We will examine several driving forces in form of altruistic-based motives, egoistic-based motives, and non-value-based motives. However, in order to give this an additional dimension we also want to examine the level of morality of ethical consumption by using five ethical theories. This approach has been overlooked in previous ethical consumption research and it will question the basic assumption that ethical consumption is the morally correct thing to do. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the motivational factors for ethical consumption and through the lens of ethical theories examine the level of morality of this behavior.

In order to fulfill this purpose we have conducted a qualitative study within the context of organic groceries in the Swedish market. Organic groceries is a branch of ethical consumption that few studies has examined before, and that applies especially to the Swedish market. 14 mainstream consumers have been interviewed were all of these were frequent buyers of organic groceries. The interviews were conducted in a semi-structured fashion which was then analyzed by the use of thematic analysis. Furthermore, the study was guided by an exploratory inductive approach where subjectivity played a significant part.

The results show that ethical consumption is driven by altruistic-based motives in form of social justice, where consumer want their consumption to benefit other. However, it is far from the only motive because ethical consumers are equally driven by egoistic motives. The result show that consumers are driven strongly by the sense of self- satisfaction created by the force of social norms, health and wellbeing, and product quality. This duality of motives creates a paradoxical tension in form of a win-win situation where the consumers strive for both the benefit of self as well as the benefit of others. Furthermore, ethical consumption is driven by habitual behavior where the consumers rely much on mental shortcuts in their purchases. Consumers are also not well- informed about ethical products and labels and therefore rely heavily on mythical benefits. In addition, when examining the level of morality of ethical consumption we can conclude that it is on level between mediocre to high. From a consequentialist and a non- consequentialist perspective the level of morality is fairly high, but from a character-based perspective the morality stumbles.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 87
Keywords [en]
Mainstream ethical consumption, ethical consumption, motivations, ethical theories, level of morality, altruistic motives, egoistic motives, non-value-based motives, social justice, social guilt, win-win, self-satisfaction, social norms, health and wellbeing, product quality, habits, knowledge and information, egoism, utilitarianism, ethics of duties, virtue ethics, postmodern ethics
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-161073OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-161073DiVA, id: diva2:1331676
Educational program
Master's Programme in Marketing
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2019-06-27 Created: 2019-06-27 Last updated: 2019-06-27Bibliographically approved

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