Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 89–100 | Cite as

Why People Don’t Take their Concerns about Fair Trade to the Supermarket: The Role of Neutralisation

  • Andreas Chatzidakis
  • Sally Hibbert
  • Andrew P. Smith


This article explores how neutralisation can explain people’s lack of commitment to buying Fair Trade (FT) products, even when they identify FT as an ethical concern. It examines the theoretical tenets of neutralisation theory and critically assesses its applicability to the purchase of FT products. Exploratory research provides illustrative examples of neutralisation techniques being used in the FT consumer context. A conceptual framework and research propositions delineate the role of neutralisation in explaining the attitude-behaviour discrepancies evident in relation to consumers’ FT purchase behaviour, providing direction for further research that will generate new knowledge of consumers’ FT purchase behaviour and other aspects of ethical consumer behaviour.


attitude-behaviour gap ethical consumerism ethical decision-making fair trade purchase neutralisation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ajzen I., Fishbein M. (1980). Understanding Attitudes and Predicting Social Behaviour. Prentice-Hall Inc, Englewood Cliffs, NJGoogle Scholar
  2. Ajzen I. (1985). From Intentions to Actions: A Theory of Planned Behaviour. In: Kuhland J., Beckman J. (eds) Action Control: From Cognition to Behaviour. Spring,Verlag, Heideberg, pp. 11–39Google Scholar
  3. Ajzen I. (1991) The Theory of Planned Behaviour. Organizational Behaviour & Human Decision Processes 50:179–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ajzen I. (2001). Nature and operation of attitudes. Annual Review of Psychology 52:27–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ajzen I., Fishbein M. (2005). The influence of attitudes on behaviour. In: Albarracín D., Johnson B. T., Zanna M. P. (eds) The handbook of attitudes. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 173–221Google Scholar
  6. Alvarez A. (1997). Adjusting to genocide: The techniques of neutralization and the holocaust. Social Science History 21(2):139–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Armitage C., Conner M. (2001). Efficacy of the theory of planned behaviour: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology 40:471–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Armitage C. J., Conner M. (1999). Distinguishing perceptions of control from self-efficacy: Predicting consumption of a low-fat diet using the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 29:72–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ball R. A. (1966). An empirical exploration of neutralization theory. Criminologica 4(2):22–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beck L., Ajzen I. (1991) Predicting dishonest actions using the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Research in Personality 25:285–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bennett R. (1996) Effects of horrific fear appeals on public attitudes towards AIDS. International Journal of Advertising 15(2):183–202Google Scholar
  12. Bersoff D. M. (2001) Why good people sometimes do bad things: Motivated Reasoning and Unethical Behaviour. The Next Phase of Business Ethics 3:239–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bird K., Hughes D. (1997) Ethical consumerism: The case of “Fairly-Traded” coffee. Business Ethics: A European Review 6(3):159–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bohner G., Reinhard M.-A., Rutz S., Sturm S., Kerschbaum B., Effler D. (1998) Rape myths as neutralizing cognitions: Evidence for a causal impact of anti-victim attitudes on men’s self-reported likelihood of raping. European Journal of Social Psychology 28:257–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Byers B., Crider B. W., Biggers G. K. (1999). Bias crime motivation: A study of hate crime and offender neutralization techniques used against the Amish. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 15(1):78–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carrigan M., Attalla A. (2001) The myth of the ethical consumer – do ethics matter in purchase behaviour? Journal of Consumer Marketing 18(7):560–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chan K. (1998) Mass communication and proenvironmental behaviour: Waste recycling in Hong Kong. Journal of Environmental Management 52:317–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chang M. K. (1998). Predicting unethical behaviour: A comparison of the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics 17(16):1825–1834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chatzidakis A., Hibbert S., Mitussis D., Smith A. (2004) Virtue in consumption?. Journal of Marketing Management 20(5/6):526–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cherrier H. (2005) Becoming sensitive to ethical consumption behaviour: Narratives of survival in an uncertain and unpredictable world. Advances in Consumer Research. 32:600–604Google Scholar
  21. Copes H. (2003) Societal attachments, offending frequency and techniques of neutralization. Deviant Behaviour 24:101–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Costello B. J. (2000) Techniques of neutralization and self-esteem: A critical test of social control and neutralization theory. Deviant Behaviour 21:301–329Google Scholar
  23. Cowe, R., & Williams, S. (2000) Who are Ethical Consumers? The Co-Operative BankGoogle Scholar
  24. Crane A. (1999). Are you ethical? Please tick Yes? or No? on researching ethics in business organizations. Journal of Business Ethics 20:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Crane A., Matten D. (2004) Business Ethics: A European Perspective – Managing Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability in the Age of Globalization. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  26. Dabney D. (1995) Neutralization and deviance in the workplace: Theft of supplies and medicines by hospital nurses. Deviant Behaviour 16:313–331Google Scholar
  27. Davies J. D., Foxall G. R., Pallister J. (2002). Beyond the intention-behaviour mythology: An integrated model of recycling. Marketing Theory 2(1):29–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dodder R., Hughes S. P. (1987) Collegiate drinking behaviour – a test of neutralization theory. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education 33(1):73–85Google Scholar
  29. Dunford F. W., Kunz P. R. (1973) The neutralization of religious dissonance. Review of Religious Research 15(1):2–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Eagly A. H., Chaiken S. (1993) The Psychology of Attitudes. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Fort Worth, TXGoogle Scholar
  31. Eliason S. L., Dodder R. A. (1999) Techniques of neutralization by deer poachers in the western United States: A research note. Deviant Behaviour 20:233–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ferraro K. J., Johnson J. M. (1983) How women experience battering: The process of victimization. Social Problems 30(3):325–339Google Scholar
  33. Ferrell O. C., Gresham L. G. (1985) A contingency framework for understanding ethical decision making in marketing. Journal of Marketing 49(3):87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fershing J. L. (2003) “To Snitch or Not to Snitch?” Applying the concept of neutralization techniques to the enforcement of occupational misconduct. Sociological Perspectives 46(2):149–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fisher R. J. (1993) Social desirability bias and the validity of indirect questioning. Journal of Consumer Research 20(Sep):303–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fisher R. J., Katz J. E. (2000) Social-Desirability bias and the validity of self-reported values. Psychology & Marketing 17(2):105–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ford R. C., Richardson W. D. (1994) Ethical decision making: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Business Ethics 13(3):205 – 221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Fox K. J. (1999) Reproducing criminal types: Cognitive treatments for violent offenders in prison. The Sociological Quarterly 40(3):435–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fritsche, I. & Mayrhofer, R. (2001). Account Strategies and Norm-contradictive Behaviour: A New Taxonomy Exemplified in the Context of Environmentally Harmful Behaviour. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Conference of the International Association for Conflict Management, 24–27 June 2001, Cergy (Paris), France.Google Scholar
  40. Fritsche, I. (2003). Pre-Behavioural Account-Giving and its Impact on Behaviour. Unpublished ManuscriptGoogle Scholar
  41. Fritsche. I. (2005) Predicting deviant behaviour by neutralization: Myths and findings. Deviant Behaviour. 26(5):483–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Fukukawa K. (2002) Developing a framework for ethically questionable behaviour in consumption. Journal of Business Ethics 14:99–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gauthier D. K. (2001) Professional Lapses: Occupational deviance and neutralization techniques in veterinary medicine practice. Deviant Behaviour 22:467–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Grove, S. J., Vitell, S. J., & Strutton, D. (1989). Non-Normative Consumer Behaviour and the Techniques of Neutralization. Proceedings of the 1989 AMA Winter Educators Conference, pp. 131–135.Google Scholar
  45. Hazani M. (1991) Aligning vocabulary, symbols banks and sociocultural structure. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 20:179–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Heltsley M., Calhoun T. C. (2003) The good mother: Neutralization techniques used by pageant mothers. Deviant Behaviour 24:81–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Holland R. W., Meertens R. M., Van Vugt M. (2002) Dissonance on the road: Self-Esteem as a moderator of internal and external justification strategies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 28(12):1713–1724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hollinger R. (1991) Neutralizing in the workplace: An empirical analysis of property theft and production deviance. Deviant Behaviour 12:169–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hunt S. D., Vitell S. J. (1986) A general theory of marketing ethics. Journal of MacroMarketing 6:5–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hunt, S. D., & Vitell S. J. (1992). The General Theory of Marketing Ethics: A Retrospective and Revision. in Smith C & Quelch J (1992), Ethics in Marketing, Irwin R, pp.775–784Google Scholar
  51. Jones T. M. (1991) Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue contingent model. Academy of Management Review 16(2):366–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kalafatis S. P., Pollard M., East R., Tsogas M. H. (1999) Green marketing and Ajzen’s theory of planned behaviour: A cross-market examination. Journal of Consumer Marketing 16(5):441–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kunda Z. (1990) The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin 108(3):480–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Levi K. (1981) Becoming a hit man: Neutralization in a very deviant career. Urban Life 10(1):47–63Google Scholar
  55. Loe T. W., Ferrell L., Mansfield P. (2000) A review of empirical studies assessing ethical decision making in business. Journal of Business Ethics 25(3):185–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Luzar E. J., Cosse K. J. (1998) Willingnes to pay or intention to pay: The attitude behaviour relationship in contingent evaluation. Journal of Socio-Economics 27(3):427–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Malhotra N. K. (2004) Marketing Research: An Applied Orientation (4th ed). Pearson-Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJGoogle Scholar
  58. Mason J. (1996) Qualitative Researching. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  59. McDonald G., Pak P. C. (1996) It’s all fair in love, war, and business: Cognitive philosophies in ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics 15(9):973–996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Minor, W. W: 1981 ‚Techniques of Neutralization: A Reconceptualization and Empirical Examination’, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, July, 295–318Google Scholar
  61. Mitchell V.-W., Chan K. L. J. (2002) Investigating UK consumers’ unethical attitudes and behaviours. Journal of Marketing Management 18:5–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nancarrow C., Brace I., Wright L. T. (2001) Tell me Lies Tell me Little Sweet Lies: Dealing with social desirable responses in market research. The Marketing Review 2:55–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Notani A. S. (1998) Moderators of perceived behavioural control’s predictiveness in the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Consumer Psychology 7(3):247–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. O’Fallon M. J., Butterfield K. D. (2005) A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics 59(4):375 – 413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ogden J. (2003). Some problems with social cognition models: A pragmatic and conceptual analysis. Health Psychology 22:424–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Patton M. Q. (1990) Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  67. Peretti-Watel P. (2003) Neutralization theory and the denial of risk: Some evidence from cannabis use among French adolescents. British Journal of Sociology 54(1):21–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rest, J. R.: 1979, Development in Judging Moral Issues (University of Minessota Press, Minneapolis).Google Scholar
  69. Roberts, J. A.: 1996, Will the Real Socially Responsible Consumer Please Step Forward? Business Horizons, Jan–Feb, pp. 79–83.Google Scholar
  70. Rosenbaum M. S., Kuntze R. (2003) The relationship between anomie and unethical retail disposition. Psychology & Marketing 20(12):1067–1093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schwartz S. H., Howard J. A. (1981) A Normative Decision-Making Model of Altruism. In: Rushton J. P., Sorrentino R. M. (eds) Altruism and helping behaviour: Social, personality, and developmental perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 189–211Google Scholar
  72. Schwartz S. H. (1977) Normative Influences on Altruism. In: Berkowitz L (ed) Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Vol 10. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  73. Schwarz, N., & Bayer, A: 1989, Variationen der Fragenreihenfolge als Instrument der Kausalitätsprüfung: Eine␣Untersuchung zur Neutralisationstheorie devianten Verhaltens (ZUMA-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 89/23) [Variation of Question Order as an Instrument of Causality Testing: A Study on the Neutralization Theory of Deviant␣Behaviour (ZUMA-work report no. 89/23)]. Mannheim, Germany: Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und AnalysenGoogle Scholar
  74. Shaw D., Clarke I. (1999) Belief formation in ethical consumer groups: An exploratory study. Marketing Intelligence & Planning 17(2):109–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Shaw D., Shiu E. (2002a) An assesment of ethical obligation and self-identity in ethical consumer decision-making: A structural equation modelling approach. International Journal of Consumer Studies 26(4):286–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Shaw D., Shiu E. (2002b) The role of ethical obligation and self-identity in ethical consumer choice. International Journal of Consumer Studies 26(2):109–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Shaw D., Shiu E. (2003) Ethics in consumer choice: A multivariate modelling approach. European Journal of Marketing 37(10):1485–1498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Shaw D., Shiu E., Clarke I. (2000) The contribution of ethical obligation and self-identity to the theory of planned behaviour: An exploration of ethical consumers. Journal of Marketing Management 16:879–894CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sparks P., Shepherd R. (1992) Self-identity and the theory of planned behaviour: Assessing the role of identification with "green consumerism". Social Psychology Quarterly 55:388–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sparks P., Shepherd R., Wieringa N., Zimmermanns N. (1995) Perceived behavioural control, unrealistic optimism and dietary change: An exploratory study. Appetite 24:243–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Strong C. (1996) Features contributing to the growth of ethical consumerism – A preliminary investigation. Marketing Intelligence& Planning 14(5):5–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Strutton D., Pelton L. E., Ferrell O. C. (1997) Ethical behaviour in retail settings: Is there a generation gap? Journal of Business Ethics 16:87–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Strutton D., Vitell S. J., Pelton L. E. (1994) How consumers may justify inappropriate behaviour in market settings: An application on the techniques of neutralization. Journal of Business Research 30:253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Sykes G. M., Matza D. (1957) Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review 22(6):664–670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Trevino L. K. (1986) Ethical decision making in organizations: A person-situation interactionist model. Academy of Management Review 11(3):601–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tyler T. R., Orwin R., Schurer L. (1982). Defensive denial and high cost prosocial behaviour. Basic and Applied Social Psychology 3(4):267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Vitell S. J., Grove S. J. (1987) Marketing ethics and the techniques of neutralization. Journal of Business Ethics 6:433–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Vitell S. J. (2003) Consumer ethics research: Review, synthesis and suggestions for the future. Journal of Business Ethics 43:33–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Ward D. A., Beck W. L. (1990). Gender and dishonesty. The Journal of Social Psychology 130:333–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Worcester, R., & J. Dawkins: 2005, ‚Surveying Ethical and Environmental Attitudes,’ in R. Harrison, T. Newholm, D. Shaw (eds.), The Ethical Consumer (Sage Publications), pp. 189–203.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Chatzidakis
    • 1
  • Sally Hibbert
    • 1
  • Andrew P. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Nottingham University Business SchoolUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations