A selection of interesting research and articles we found recently.

Transparency and social responsibility in building consumer trust
What builds trust between consumers and corporations? To answer the question, Jiyun Kang and Gwendolyn Hustvedt developed a model showing the relationships among transparency, social responsibility, trust, attitude, word-of-mouth intention, and purchase intention. Via an online survey with a US nationwide sample of 303 consumers, results indicated that consumers’ perceptions of a corporation’s efforts to be transparent in production and labour conditions, and to be socially responsible by giving back to the local community, directly affected consumer trust and attitudes toward the corporation. These factors indirectly affected purchase intentions and spreading positive word-of-mouth about the corporation.

To read about some of the theoretical and practical implications, see: Jiyun Kang and Gwendolyn Hustvedt, 2014. Building Trust Between Consumers and Corporations: The Role of Consumer Perceptions of Transparency and Social Responsibility, Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 125(2), 253-265.

Should companies treat customers fairly?
Yes, according to Nobuyuki Fukawa and Sunil Erevelles, companies do have a moral responsibility to treat customers fairly. One way for companies to do so is to allow their employees to exercise reasonableness in their interactions with customers. The authors define reasonableness as a latitude or space that exists around expectations in the delivery of service. In this paper, they explore the concept of reasonableness from a customer’s perspective (i.e., perceived reasonableness) and the role that the morals of service personnel play in customers’ perceptions of reasonableness. First, through an open-ended survey on customers’ unreasonable service experiences, they identify themes of perceived reasonableness and then discuss the role that the morals of service personnel play within these themes. Second, in order to identify the relationships between these themes, they create a cognitive map and discuss the implications of the identified relationships, along with directions for future research on reasonableness.

More information is available at: Nobuyuki Fukawa and Sunil Erevelles. Perceived Reasonableness and Morals in Service Encounters. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 125(3), 381-400.

Does moral disengagement affect Australian consumers’ ethical beliefs?
Rafi Chowdhury and Mario Fernando examined the relationships of empathy, moral identity and cynicism with several dimensions of consumer ethics, namely the passive dimension (passively benefiting at the expense of the seller), the active/legal dimension (benefiting from questionable but legal actions), the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension (actions that do not harm anyone directly but are considered unethical by some) and the ‘doing-good’/recycling dimension (pro-social actions). A survey of 600 Australian consumers revealed that both empathy and moral identity were related to negative beliefs regarding the passive and the active/legal dimensions of consumer ethics, and were related to positive beliefs regarding the ‘doing-good’/recycling dimension. Cynicism was related to positive beliefs regarding the passive dimension of consumer ethics and was related to negative beliefs regarding the ‘doing-good’/recycling dimension. The role of moral disengagement in mediating these relationships was examined. Empathy and moral identity were only indirectly negatively related to the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension of consumer ethics through moral disengagement, while cynicism was indirectly positively related to this dimension through moral disengagement.

Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed in Rafi M. M. I. Chowdhury and Mario Fernando, 2014. The Relationships of Empathy, Moral Identity and Cynicism with Consumers’ Ethical Beliefs: The Mediating Role of Moral Disengagement. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 124(4), 677-694.


Perceived greenwashing affects consumer reactions
Gergely Nyilasy, Harsha Gangadharbatla and Angela Paladino investigated the effects of green advertising and a corporation’s environmental performance on consumer brand attitudes and purchase intentions. A 3 × 3 (firm’s environmental performance and its advertising efforts as independent variables) experiment using 302 subjects was conducted. Results indicate that the negative effect of a firm’s low performance on brand attitudes becomes stronger in the presence of green advertising compared to general corporate advertising and no advertising. Further, when the firm’s environmental performance is high, both green and general corporate advertising result in more unfavourable brand attitudes than no advertising. The study’s counter-intuitive findings are explained by attribution theory.

For details see: Gergely Nyilasy, Harsha Gangadharbatla and Angela Paladino. Perceived Greenwashing: The Interactive Effects of Green Advertising and Corporate Environmental Performance on Consumer Reactions. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 125(4), 693-707.


Does a traceability label affect consumer willingness to buy the product?
Yes according to a Danish study conducted by Cosmina Bradu, Jacob Orquin and John Thøgersen. The researchers examined the effectiveness of a new traceability label on consumer willingness to buy a chocolate bar, and whether the effect is mediated by moral affective evaluations of the product. A sample of 1,064 ordinary Danish consumers revealed that the traceability label had a significant impact on consumer willingness to buy a chocolate bar, an impact mediated by moral affective evaluations of the chocolate bar. Based on the dual process models of persuasion (HSM and ELM), the authors explained that consumers mainly process the traceability label in a heuristic way, through a peripheral route, making a fast and frugal, affect-based judgment, rather than one based on elaborate reasoning.

For further information, read the full paper: Cosmina Bradu, Jacob L. Orquin and John Thøgersen. The Mediated Influence of a Traceability Label on Consumer’s Willingness to Buy the Labelled Product. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 124(2), pp. 283-295.