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Title: Understanding the ethically aware consumer
Author: Freestone, Oliver M.
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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There exists evidence of increased consumer awareness and concern for environmental and other ethical issues, leading many business organizations and political entities to reappraise and communicate more effectively their ethical credentials. However, in both the media and academic research there is considerable debate concerning whether consumers actively consider ethical issues when making purchasing decisions; alternatively, is ethically aware consumerism merely a passing fad, at risk of being exploited by the commercial and political world as simply another marketable point of difference? This research has identified gaps in the body of understanding relating to ethical consumer research regarding the following issues: • What are consumers' 'conscience principles' or areas of ethical concern? • Which segments of the population are concerned with which ethical Issues? • What drives and motivates ethically aware consumers? • Whether consumers are prepared to pay a premium for certain products? Following a qualitative investigation using in-depth discussions with consumers and industry experts, along with a related ZMET study (Doherty and McGoldrick, 2003), a questionnaire was developed and administered to a representative UK sample of 1,000 consumers. This included a measure of awareness, concern and action (ACA) on 16 ethical issues, the scale developed from the Stages of Change concept within the Transtheoretical model. In addition the literature review reconciled and critiqued a variety of theoretical perspectives on the topiC. PrinCipal Components Analysis (PCA) was then used to explore which segments of the population are aware, concerned and take some form of action regarding ethical issues. The ethical issues identified were grouped Into five conceptually justifiable and statistically reUable dimensions. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) supported the findings of the original model. Univariate and multivariate analyses were employed as parametric tests to explore the segmentation Issue. Exploratory PCA then found support for the hypothesis that positive and negative motivations could be grouped into Decisional Balance dimensions. Further ANOVA tests revealing that as an Individual moves through the Stages of Change along the ACA scale, the Decisional Balance dimensions shift until a "Critical Ethical Point" is reached whereby positive motIvations outweigh negative. Finally the study 12 investigated whether consumers are prepared to pay a price premium for ethical goods, finding that the majority of respondents indicated a willingness to pay at least a small premium for products labelled as ethically "safe". It is hoped that the proposed investigation will shed considerable light on the ethically aware consumer debate, and act as a springboard for further research, particularly in the areas of purification of the motivations scale, using more advanced consumer segmentation tools such as MOSAIC, and exploring ethical price premiums (EPPs). 13
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available