Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 113, Issue 1, pp 61–79 | Cite as

The Role of Spiritual Well-Being and Materialism in Determining Consumers’ Ethical Beliefs: An Empirical Study with Australian Consumers



A survey was conducted to investigate the relationship of Australian consumers’ lived (experienced) spiritual well-being and materialism with the various dimensions of consumer ethics. Spiritual well-being is composed of four domains—personal, communal, transcendental and environmental well-being. All four domains were examined in relation to the various dimensions of consumers’ ethical beliefs (active/illegal dimension, passive dimension, active/legal dimension, ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension and ‘doing good’/recycling dimension). The results indicated that lived communal well-being was negatively related to perceptions of the active/illegal dimension and the passive dimension and was positively related to perceptions of the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension and the ‘doing good’/recycling dimension. Lived personal well-being was negatively related to perceptions of the active/illegal dimension and was positively related to perceptions of the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension and the ‘doing good’/recycling dimension. Lived transcendental well-being was negatively related to perceptions of the passive dimension, the active/legal dimension and the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension. Lived environmental well-being was negatively related to perceptions of the active/legal dimension and the ‘no harm, no foul’ dimension. The findings also indicated that materialism was positively associated with perceptions of actively benefiting from illegal actions, passively benefiting at the expense of the seller, actively benefiting from questionable but legal actions and benefiting from ‘no harm, no foul’ actions. Public policy implications of the findings and opportunities for future research are discussed.


Spiritual well-being Materialism Consumer ethics 


  1. Abela, A. V. (2006). Marketing and consumerism: A response to O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy. European Journal of Marketing, 40(1/2), 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albert, L. S., & Horowitz, L. M. (2009). Attachment style and ethical behaviour: Their relationship and significance in the marketplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 299–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allport, G. W. (1950). The individual and his religion: A psychological interpretation. New York: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  4. Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(4), 432–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Argyle, M., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1975). The social psychology of religion. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  6. Armstrong, J. S., & Overton, T. S. (1977). Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys. Journal of Marketing Research, 14(3), 396–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aronson, E., & Mettee, D. R. (1968). Dishonest behaviour as a function of differential levels of induced self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9(2), 121–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Belk, R. W. (1984). Three scales to measure constructs related to materialism: Reliability, validity and relationships to measures of happiness. In T. Kinnear (Ed.), Advances in consumer research (Vol. 11, pp. 291–297). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  9. Belk, R. W. (1985). Materialism: Trait aspects of living in the material world. Journal of Consumer Research, 12(December), 265–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Belk, R. W. (2001). Materialism and you. Journal of Research for Consumers, 1, 1–7.Google Scholar
  11. Boehe, D. M., & Cruz, L. B. (2010). Corporate social responsibility, product differentiation strategy and export performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 91, 325–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burke, R. J. (1982). Personality, self image and informal helping processes in work settings. Psychological Reports, 50(3), 1295–1302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dollahite, D. C. (1998). Fathering, faith and spirituality. Journal of Men’s Studies, 7(1), 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 400–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Duke, J. T., & Johnson, B. L. (1984). Spiritual well-being and the consequential dimension of religiosity. Review of Religious Research, 26(1), 59–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Emmons, R. A. (1999). Religion in the psychology of personality: An introduction. Journal of Personality, 67(6), 873–888.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Erffmeyer, R., Keillor, B., & Le Clair, D. T. (1999). An empirical investigation of Japanese consumer ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 18, 35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fehr, E., & Rockenbach, B. (2004). Human altruism: Economic, neural and evolutionary perspectives. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 14(6), 784–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fernando, M., & Chowdhury, R. M. M. I. (2010). The relationship between spiritual well-being and ethical orientations in decision making: An empirical study with business executives in Australia. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, 211–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fisher, J. W. (1999). Developing a spiritual health and life orientation measure for secondary school students. In Proceedings of the University of Ballarat annual research conference (pp. 57–63).Google Scholar
  21. Fisher, J. W. (2011). The four domains model: Connecting spirituality, health and well -being. Religions, 2(1), 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Forsyth, D. R. (1980). A taxonomy of ethical ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(1), 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Freeman, R. E. (1984). The politics of stakeholder theory: Some future directions. Business Ethics Quarterly, 4(4), 409–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Freeman, R. E., Wicks, A. C., & Parmar, B. (2004). Stakeholder theory and the corporate objective revisited. Organization Science, 15(3), 364–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Giacalone, R. A., & Jurkiewicz, C. L. (2003). Right from wrong: The influence of spirituality on perceptions of unethical business activities. Journal of Business Ethics, 46, 85–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gomez, R., & Fisher, J. W. (2003). Domains of spiritual well-being and development and validation of the spiritual well-being questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1975–1991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gomez, R., & Fisher, J. W. (2005a). Item response theory analysis of the spiritual well-being questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1107–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gomez, R., & Fisher, J. W. (2005b). The spiritual well-being questionnaire: Testing for model applicability, measurement and structural equivalencies, and latent mean differences across gender. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 1383–1393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Graf, R. G. (1971). Induced self-esteem as a determinant of behaviour. Journal of Social Psychology, 85(2), 213–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Haski-Leventhal, D. (2009). Altruism and volunteerism: The perceptions of altruism in four disciplines and their impact on the study of volunteerism. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 39(3), 271–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hirsh, J. B., & Dolderman, D. (2007). Personality predictors of consumerism and environmentalism: A preliminary study. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1583–1593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hobfoll, S. E. (1980). The personal characteristics of the college volunteer. American Journal of Community Psychology, 8(4), 503–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hunt, S. D. (1990). Commentary on an empirical investigation of a general theory of marketing ethics. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 18(2), 173–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hunt, S. D., & Vitell, S. J. (1986). A general theory of marketing ethics. Journal of Macromarketing, 6(1), 5–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kale, S. (2006). Consumer spirituality and marketing. In M. C. Lees, T. Davies, & G. Gregory (Eds.), Asia-Pacific advances in consumer research (Vol. 7, pp. 108–110). Sydney: University of Sydney.Google Scholar
  36. Klein, S. (2003). The natural roots of capitalism and its virtues and values. Journal of Business Ethics, 45, 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Krosnick, J. A. (1999). Survey research. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 537–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Larsen, V., Sirgy, M. J., & Wright, N. D. (1999). Materialism: The construct, measures, antecedents and consequences. Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 3(2), 78–110.Google Scholar
  39. Lee, D., & Sirgy, M. J. (2004). Quality of life marketing: Proposed antecedents and consequences. Journal of Macromarketing, 24(1), 44–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lehmann, D. R. (1989). Market research and analysis (3rd ed.). Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin Inc.Google Scholar
  41. Liu, Z., Zeng, F., & Su, C. (2009). Does relationship quality matter in consumer ethical decision making? Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 483–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lu, L., & Lu, C. (2010). Moral philosophy, materialism, and consumer ethics: An exploratory study in Indonesia. Journal of Business Ethics, 94, 193–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lubin, D. A., & Esty, D. C. (2010). The sustainability imperative. Harvard Business Review, 88(5), 42–50.Google Scholar
  44. Marsh, H. W. (1998). Pair wise deletion of missing data in structural equation models: Non positive definite matrices, parameter estimates, goodness of fit, and adjusted sample sizes. Structural Equation Modelling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 5(1), 22–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. McKee, D. (2003). Spirituality and marketing: An overview of the literature. In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance (pp. 57–75). Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  46. Meier, S., & Stutzer, A. (2008). Is volunteering rewarding in itself? Economica, 75, 39–59.Google Scholar
  47. Mellor, D., Hayashi, Y., Stokes, M., Firth, L., Lake, L., Staples, M., et al. (2009). Volunteering and its relationship with personal and neighbourhood well-being. Non Profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(1), 144–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mitroff, I. I., & Denton, E. A. (1999). A study of spirituality in the workplace. Sloan Management Review, 40(4), 83–92.Google Scholar
  49. Moberg, D. O. (1979). The development of social indicators for quality of life research. Sociological Analysis, 40, 11–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Moschis, G. P., & Churchill, G. A. (1978). Consumer socialization: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 15(November), 599–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muncy, J. A., & Eastman, J. K. (1998). Materialism and consumer ethics: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 137–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Muncy, J. A., & Vitell, S. J. (1992). Consumer ethics: An investigation of the ethical beliefs of the final consumer. Journal of Business Research, 24, 297–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pajo, K., & Lee, L. (2011). Corporate sponsored volunteering: A work-design perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 99, 467–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rallapalli, K. C., Vitell, S. J., Wiebe, F. A., & Barnes, J. H. (1994). Consumer ethical beliefs and personality traits: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 13, 487–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rawwas, M. Y. A. (1996). Consumer ethics: An empirical investigation of the ethical beliefs of Austrian consumers. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 1009–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rawwas, M. Y. A., & Singhapakdi, A. (1998). Do consumers’ ethical beliefs vary with age? A substantiation of Kohlberg’s typology in marketing. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 6(Spring), 26–38.Google Scholar
  57. Rawwas, M. Y. A., Strutton, D., & Johnson, L. W. (1996). An exploratory investigation of the ethical values of American and Australian consumers: Direct marketing implications. Journal of Direct Marketing, 10(4), 52–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Richins, M. L. (2004). The material values scale: Measurement properties and development of a short form. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(June), 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Richins, M. L., & Dawson, S. (1992). A consumer values orientation for materialism and its measurement: Scale development and validation. Journal of Consumer Research, 19(December), 303–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schneider, H., Krieger, J., & Bayraktar, A. (2011). The impact of intrinsic religiosity on consumers’ ethical beliefs: Does it depend on the type of religion? A comparison of Christian and Muslim consumers in Germany and Turkey. Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 319–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schoeck, H. (1966). Envy: A theory of social behaviour (M. Glennyard and B. Ross, Trans.). New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  62. Schultz, P. W. (2001). The structure of environmental concern: Concern for self, other people and the biosphere. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21, 327–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shama, A., & Wisenblit, J. (1984). Values of voluntary simplicity: Lifestyle and motivation. Psychological Reports, 55, 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sheth, J. N., Sethia, N. K., & Srinivas, S. (2011). Mindful consumption: A customer-centric approach to sustainability. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39, 21–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Smith, A. (1759/2009). The theory of moral sentiments. New York: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
  66. Sparks, J. R., & Hunt, S. D. (1998). Marketing researcher ethical sensitivity: Conceptualization, measurement and exploratory investigation. Journal of Marketing, 62(April), 92–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Spash, C. L. (1997). Ethics and environmental attitudes with implications for economic valuation. Journal of Environmental Management, 50, 403–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tart, C. (1983). Transpersonal psychologies. El Ceritto, CA: Psychological Processes Inc.Google Scholar
  69. Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42(2), 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. United States Department of State. (2010). Australia: background note. Retrieved June 18, 2011 from
  71. Van Kenhove, P., Vermeir, I., & Verniers, S. (2001). An empirical investigation of the relationships between ethical beliefs, ethical ideology, political preference and need for closure. Journal of Business Ethics, 32, 347–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Vitell, S. J. (2003). Consumer ethics research: Review, synthesis and suggestions for the future. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Vitell, S. J. (2009). The role of religiosity in business and consumer ethics: A review of the literature. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 155–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Vitell, S. J., Keith, M., & Mathur, M. (2011). Antecedents to the justification of norm violating behaviour among business practitioners. Journal of Business Ethics, 101, 163–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Vitell, S. J., & Muncy, J. A. (1992). Consumer ethics: An empirical investigation of factors influencing ethical judgments of the final consumer. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, 585–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Vitell, S. J., & Muncy, J. A. (2005). The Muncy–Vitell consumer ethics scale: A modification and application. Journal of Business Ethics, 62, 267–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vitell, S. J., & Paolillo, J. G. P. (2003). Consumer ethics: The role of religiosity. Journal of Business Ethics, 46, 151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Vitell, S. J., Paolillo, J. G. P., & Singh, J. J. (2005). Religiosity and consumer ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 57, 175–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Vitell, S. J., Singh, J. J., & Paolillo, J. G. P. (2006). The role of money and religiosity in determining consumers’ ethical beliefs. Journal of Business Ethics, 64, 117–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Vitell, S. J., Singh, J. J., & Paolillo, J. G. P. (2007). Consumers ethical beliefs: The roles of money, religiosity and attitude toward business. Journal of Business Ethics, 73, 369–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Vitell, S. J., Singhapakdi, A., & Thomas, J. (2001). Consumer ethics: An application and empirical testing of the Hunt–Vitell theory of ethics. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 18(2), 153–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wallace, D. W., Giese, J. L., & Johnson, J. L. (2004). Customer retailer loyalty in the context of multiple channel strategies. Journal of Retailing, 80, 249–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wang, C., Chen, C., Yang, S., & Farn, C. (2009). Pirate or buy? The moderating role of idolatry. Journal of Business Ethics, 90, 81–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wilson, J. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 215–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wilson, J., & Musick, M. (1999). The effects of volunteering on the volunteer. Law and Contemporary Problems, 62(4), 141–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Wymer, W. W. (1997). Segmenting volunteers using values, self-esteem, empathy and facilitation as determinant variables. Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 5(2), 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Zinnbauer, B. J., Pargament, K. I., Cole, B., Rye, M. S., Butter, E. M., Belavich, T. G., et al. (1997). Religion and spirituality: Unfuzzying the fuzzy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36(4), 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business, School of BusinessBond UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  2. 2.School of Management and Marketing, Faculty of CommerceUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

Personalised recommendations