This week, some fascinating research on consumer reaction to company’s CSR practices.

Overcoming the ‘Window Dressing’ effect
As more and more instances of corporate hypocrisy become public, consumers have developed an inherent general scepticism towards firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) claims. As CSR scepticism bears heavily on consumers’ attitudes and behaviour, this paper draws from Construal Level Theory to identify how it can be pre-emptively abated.

The authors posit that this general scepticism towards CSR leads people to adopt a low-level construal mindset when processing CSR information. Four studies show that matching this low-level mindset with concrete CSR messaging works to effectively mitigate the negative effects of inherent CSR scepticism on consumers’ attitudes, purchase intentions, and word of mouth.

The resulting construal-mindset congruency strengthens the favourability of consumer responses through increased positive elaboration and perceptions of CSR message credibility. Furthermore, this congruency effect is shown to persist over time in sceptical domains but to dissipate in less sceptical domains.

Scott Connors, Stephen Anderson-MacDonald and Matthew Thomson. 2017. Overcoming the ‘Window Dressing’ Effect: Mitigating the Negative Effects of Inherent Skepticism Towards Corporate Social Responsibility.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(3), 599–621.


Do cultural and generational cohorts matter to ideologies and consumer ethics? A comparative study of Australians, Indonesians, and Indonesian Migrants in Australia
We explore the notion that culture influences people’s values, and their subsequent ideologies and ethical behaviours. The researchers present the idea that culture itself changes with time, and explore the influence of culture and generational markers on consumer ethics by examining differences in these ethical dimensions between Australians, Indonesians, and Indonesian Migrants in Australia, as well as differences between Generation X versus Generations Y and Z.

The present study addresses the need to investigate the role that culture plays in consumer ethics, and the interaction between culture and generational attitudes in determining consumer ethics. Results established a distinct multiculturality in three cultural samples, including a generational cohort differences.

This suggests that culture and generational markers influence ethical beliefs, ideologies, and consumer ethics. It further indicates that Indonesian Migrants have acculturated to Australian society both in terms of their values and consumer behaviours, illustrating a crossvergence effect; scores indicate that these migrants have the highest cultural intelligence among the samples. Implications of the findings for consumer ethics theory and practice are considered and future directions identified.

Pekerti, A.A. & Arli, D.  2017. Do Cultural and Generational Cohorts Matter to Ideologies and Consumer Ethics? A Comparative Study of Australians, Indonesians, and Indonesian Migrants in Australia. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 143(2), 387–404.


Strong reciprocity in consumer boycotts
Boycotts are among the most frequent forms of consumer expression against unethical or egregious acts by firms. Most current research explains consumers’ decisions to participate in a boycott using a universal cost-benefit model that mixes instrumental and expressive motives. To date, no conceptual framework accounts for the distinct behavioural motives for boycotting though.

This article focuses on motivational heterogeneity among consumers. By distinguishing two stable behavioural models—a self-regarding type and a strongly reciprocal type—we introduce the notion of strong reciprocity to the boycott literature. The authors argue that the presence of strongly reciprocal consumers can enhance boycott success.

First, in interactions with the target firm, strongly reciprocal consumers perceive higher levels of egregiousness and are more willing to engage in boycotting behaviour, even in unfavourable strategic conditions, which provides a stable basis for boycotting.

Second, in interactions with self-regarding consumers, strongly reciprocal consumers are willing to sanction those others, according to whether they participate in the boycott, which increases overall participation in and the likelihood of success of a consumer boycott. These findings have implications for further research, as well as for firms, nongovernmental organizations, and boycotters.

Tobias Hahn and Noël Albert. 2017. Strong Reciprocity in Consumer Boycotts.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(3), 509–524.


The need to give gratuitously
The “gift exchange theory” articulated by Marcel Mauss, along with his core concept of a threefold obligation (giving/receiving/returning), is the dominant theoretical framework used to explain the majority of gift issues in marketing. This perspective assumes that some interest always lies behind gifts, such that a gift always implies a counterpart of receiving something in return. Despite the relevance of this approach in understanding the day-to-day consumer behaviour, this paper presents empirical cases where the consumer is also able to give freely, that is to say without implying a counterpart or even expecting it.

To explain those empirical cases, the authors mobilize a key teaching of the Catholic Church: the “gratuitous gift” and then introduce the concept of the “need to give.” The writers show that gratuitousness is a relevant concept to understand most of gifts made by consumers, and they develop the normative aspect of gratuitous gift for ethical marketers (i.e., what ethical marketers should consider to understand consumers properly and in a more humanistic way).

The authors also show that Catholic Social Teaching offers an appropriate anthropology to understand consumer behaviours motivated by this need for gratuitousness. To conclude, the authors propose further avenues of research.

Bénédicte de Peyrelongue, Olivier Masclef and Valérie Guillard. 2017. The Need to Give Gratuitously: A Relevant Concept Anchored in Catholic Social Teaching to Envision the Consumer Behavior. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(4), 739–755.


Collectivism, attitude toward business,religious beliefs and consumer ethics in China
Chinese consumers comprise a unique subculture that exerts a considerable influence on the market and are treated as a collective group by researchers. However, few studies have examined the effects of collectivism and consumer attitudinal attributes on consumer ethics. Although the practice of religion was prohibited in China before economic reforms in the late 1970s, religion remains a major factor that affects the ethical judgment of consumers.

The present study, based on the Hunt–Vitell model, examines the influence of culture (collectivism and religion) and personal characteristics (attitude toward business) on consumer ethics. A total of 284 Chinese consumers were surveyed. Structural equation modelling was used to test hypothesized relationships in the research model.

The results indicate that collectivism had a significant explanatory power for four dimensions of consumer ethical beliefs: (a) actively benefiting from illegal activities; (b) passively benefiting from questionable activities; (c) actively benefiting from deceptive legal activities; and (d) engaging in no harm and no foul activities.

However, consumer attitude toward business significantly explained only the passive dimension of consumer ethics, and religious beliefs significantly explained only the active dimension of consumer ethical beliefs.

Chun-Chen Huang and Long-Chuan Lu. 2017. Examining the Roles of Collectivism, Attitude Toward Business, and Religious Beliefs on Consumer Ethics in China. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 146(3), 505–514.


Perceived eco-friendliness: How logo colours influence shoppers’ judgments of retailer ethicality
Despite the moral gravity and far-reaching consequences of ethical judgment, evidence shows that such judgment is surprisingly malleable, prone to bias, informed by intuition and implicit associations, and swayed by mere circumstance. In this vein, this research examines how mere colours featured in logos can bias consumers’ ethical judgments about a retailer.

Exposure to a logo featuring an eco-friendly colour makes an ethically ambiguous practice seem more ethical; however, exposure to a logo featuring a non-eco-friendly colour makes the same practice seem less ethical (Study 1). This effect is due to the embodied meaning of colour, not referential meanings associated with the names of colours, and it is mediated by perceptions of a retailer’s eco-friendliness (Study 2a).

Furthermore, although the word “green” appears to influence ethical ratings of retail practices more than the word “blue,” visual exposure to either colour evokes similar perceptions of eco-friendliness and influences ethical judgments (Study 2b). Study 2c assesses and rules out alternative explanations for this effect.

Critically, an eco-friendly colour can skew judgments even when the practices judged are not ethically ambiguous (Study 3). Individual differences in ethical sensitivity moderate the observed effect, such that individuals who are less ethically sensitive are less influenced by colour (Study 4). The article concludes with a discussion on how logo colours shape consumers’ perceptions of retailer ethicality.

Aparna Sundar and James J. Kellaris. 2017.  How Logo Colors Influence Shoppers’ Judgments of Retailer Ethicality: The Mediating Role of Perceived Eco-Friendliness. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 146(3), 685–701.