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Applying Ethical Concepts to the Study of “Green” Consumer Behavior: An Analysis of Chinese Consumers’ Intentions to Bring their Own Shopping Bags


Drawing on the general ethics and social psychology literature, this study presents a model to delineate the major factors likely to affect consumers’ intentions to bring their own shopping bags when visiting a supermarket (called “bring your own bags” or “BYOB” intention). The model is empirically validated using a survey of 250 Chinese consumers. Overall, the findings support the hypothesized direct influence of teleological evaluation and habit on BYOB intention, as well as that of deontological evaluation and teleological evaluation on ethical judgment about the BYOB practice. Teleological evaluation exerts a much stronger influence on ethical judgment than does deontological evaluation. In addition, the findings reveal that consumers who perceive the BYOB practice to be more important are more inclined to rely on their ethical judgment to derive their BYOB intention. Academically, these findings provide some encouraging evidence for the application of general ethics theories to explain green consumption-related practices. Practically, the findings also suggest that a utilitarian approach (i.e., emphasizing the consequences of BYOB) may represent an effective means for the Chinese government to promote BYOB practice among consumers.

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The work described in this paper was supported by a grant from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

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Correspondence to Ricky Y. K. Chan.

Additional information

Dr. Ricky Y. K. Chan is associate professor of the Department of Management and Marketing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests lie in green marketing and behavioral aspects of Chinese consumers. He has contributed to such journals as Business Horizons, European Journal of Marketing, International Business Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of International Marketing, Journal of Management Studies and Journal of Services Marketing.

Dr. Y. H. Wong is associate professor of the Department of Management and Marketing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is the author of a book, Guanxi: Relationship Marketing in a Chinese Context (co-authored with Dr. T. K. P. Leung). His research has been published in journals, including Industrial Marketing Management, International Business Review, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Journal of International Consumer Marketing and Journal of Services Marketing.

Dr. T. K. P. Leung is associate professor of the Department of Management and Marketing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research areas include business to business marketing, Chinese cultures and their implications to Sino-foreign negotiation. He has published articles in such journals as European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of International Consumer Marketing and Marketing Intelligence and Planning. He also co-authored a research book with Dr. Y. H. Wong titled Guanxi: Relationship marketing in a Chinese context published by the Haworth Press.

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Chan, R.Y.K., Wong, Y.H. & Leung, T.K.P. Applying Ethical Concepts to the Study of “Green” Consumer Behavior: An Analysis of Chinese Consumers’ Intentions to Bring their Own Shopping Bags. J Bus Ethics 79, 469 (2008).

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  • China
  • ethical concepts
  • green consumption
  • moral philosophies
  • white pollution