Our research tidbits this week look at the ethics of consumption ranging from the tone of marketing language, national cultural traits to personal ethical beliefs.

How national culture and ethics matter in consumers’ green consumption values
Going green in consumption is gaining momentum globally, but little is known how national cultural values and consumers’ ethical ideologies explain green consumption.

With a culturally rich sample of 1929 responses from consumers in Finland, Germany, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, the present study examines how cultural long-term orientation and collectivism predict consumers’ green consumption values, and if these relationships are moderated by ethical ideologies.

The study finds that cultural collectivism has a significant positive effect on green consumption values, as expected. However, the results show that the two long-term orientation constructs, namely planning and tradition, point in opposite directions when predicting green consumption. The authors demonstrate that while long-term planning has a significant positive effect on green consumption values, the effect of traditional values is negative. The authors further show that this negative effect varies across consumers’ ethical ideologies so that the effect is the greatest for Exceptionists and Absolutists, that is, those who rely in their actions on universal moral principles rather than particular circumstances.

Therefore, this research contributes to the literature by providing new evidence for the cultural and ethical aspects in green consumption values. Furthermore, the study suggests that managers pay special attention to the consumers who have high collectivistic and future-oriented values to promote environmentally friendly consumption.

Pradipta Halder, Eric N. Hansen, Jyrki Kangas & Tommi Laukkanen. 2020. How national culture and ethics matter in consumers’ green consumption values..

Journal of Cleaner Production, 265, article 121754

Sustainability: Issues of scale, care and consumption
This paper investigates how consumers interested in sustainability are affected by conflicts in caring and scale. Contrasting previous emphasis relating scale to production, the paper illustrates how scale influences consumption and social reproduction, including consumers’ more concrete preoccupations with caring about and for themselves, significant others and, not least, the planet.

The paper makes three contributions to the nascent management literature in this field.
First, it illustrates how scalar logics at urban through to global levels influence seemingly micro-social routine consumption decisions.
Second, it develops an approach that emphasises the scale-sensitivity of consumer decision-making around sustainability and the conflicts inherent in caring.
Third, it addresses critiques of current studies preoccupied with processes of production rather than social reproduction and illustrates the critical role that consumption plays in the social construction of scales.

Based on these findings, the authors argue that policy promoting sustainability may be misplaced in that it does not sufficiently acknowledge how people’s consumption and caring decisions are nested in relational and spatial contexts.

Andreas Chatzidakis, Deirdre Shaw 2018. Sustainability: Issues of Scale, Care and Consumption.

British Journal of Management, 29(2), 299-316.

Do consumers’ good traits predict their socially responsible consumption?
Drawing upon the theory of virtue ethics, this study builds a decision tree predictive model to explore the anticipated impact of good traits (i.e., virtuous and personality traits) on socially responsible consumption.

Using R statistical software, the authors generate a classification tree and cross-validate the model on two independent datasets. The results indicate that the virtuous traits of self-efficacy, courage, and self-control, as well as the personality traits of openness and conscientiousness, predict socially responsible purchase and disposal behaviour. Remarkably, the largest segment of socially responsible consumers in the study (41 %) scored high in self-efficacy and openness.

This result suggests that marketers should focus on these good traits when creating advertisements to encourage sustainable consumption. This study contributes to enhancing knowledge about the social and psychological aspects of the sustainability movement and provides a new analytical approach to predicting socially responsible consumption.

Song, So & Kim, Youn-Kyung. 2018. Theory of Virtue Ethics: Do Consumers’ Good Traits Predict Their Socially Responsible Consumption?

Journal of Business Ethics, 152(4), 1159-1175.

Ethical challenge in base-of-the-pyramid markets
Making transformative services such as healthcare accessible to low-income consumers is an ethical challenge of vital importance to marketers. However, most low-income consumers across the world are excluded from the market for such transformative services because of financial constraints arising from poverty.

In this paper, instead of focusing on the micro-interplay between firms and consumers, the authors examine the macro-interplay among firms, consumers, and public policy in addressing the ethical challenge of market inclusion at the base of the pyramid. Specifically, the authors examine how the Vietnam government used a policy of free and universal health insurance for children under the age of six as a means of lowering affordability barriers and fostering market inclusion in the healthcare market.

Overnight in 2005, all children under the age of six living anywhere in Vietnam became eligible for free health insurance. Using this policy intervention as a natural experiment, the authors compare market inclusion outcomes of children under the age of six with older children who were ineligible before and after the program was implemented.

The authors show that lowering affordability barriers through public policy (1) increases access to target services, (2) increases consumers’ overall out-of-pocket spending, and (3) increases access to complementary services. By adopting a macromarketing lens, this study makes a strong case for collaboration among firms, governments, and communities in addressing the ethical challenge of system-wide market inclusion in base-of-the-pyramid markets.

Anaka Aiyar & Srinivas Venugopal. 2020. Addressing the Ethical Challenge of Market Inclusion in Base-of-the-Pyramid Markets: A Macromarketing Approach.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(2), 243–260.

Freedom of the will and consumption restrictions
There is a long-standing interest in business ethics around the concept of free will, but study of its possible influence on consumer behaviour is only in the nascent stage. This lack of research is particularly acute in certain consumption contexts, especially ones based on highly restricted access that appear to suggest abrogation of the will.

In this paper, the author offers a novel approach that involves re-examination of qualitative/ethnographic research that has chronicled consumption restrictions without consideration of potential implications for free will. Using a new reanalysis method, the authors show that some of what is described as “vulnerability” using other theoretical paradigms is subsumed within this domain.

Findings demonstrate that a complex relationship between free will and various consumption processes and outcomes exists that is acted out within and outside licit and illicit/formal and informal markets. These restrictions allow for a different vantage point to address free will and consumption, with implications for business ethicists and researchers interested in human quality treatment or human dignity-centered business frameworks.

Ronald Paul Hill. 2020. Freedom of the will and consumption restrictions.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(2), 311–324.

Punishing politeness in promoting brand trust
Morality is an abstract consideration, and language is an important regulator of abstract thought. In instances of moral ambiguity (e.g., ethically ambiguous business practices), individuals may pay particular attention to matters of interactional justice (i.e., how consumers are treated with politeness and dignity by the brand in question).

Politeness in language has been linked to greater perceptions of social distance, which the authors contend is instrumental in regulating attitudes toward a brand. The authors posit that politeness in a brand’s advertising will impact consumers who are attuned to violations of interactional justice [i.e., those with low belief in a just world (BJW)]. In three studies, the authors demonstrate that the politeness used in advertising as well as consumers’ individual differences in BJW affect judgments and attitudes toward brands.

Specifically, individuals with a low just world belief are more likely to harbor negative attitudes towards a brand with ethically ambiguous business practices if the language used in advertising is impersonal (politer) than when the language used in advertising is personal (less polite). Importantly, for individuals with a low BJW, lowered trust due to the advertisement’s language mediated the relationship between politeness and attitudes toward the brand. Theoretical and managerial implications of this research are discussed.

Aparna Sundar & Edita S. Cao. 2020. Punishing Politeness: The Role of Language in Promoting Brand Trust.

Journal of Business Ethics, volume 164(1), 39–60.