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Bags for Life: The Embedding of Ethical Consumerism

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The aim of this paper is to understand why some ethical behaviours fail to embed, and importantly what can be done about it. We address this by looking at an example where ethical behaviour has not become the norm, i.e. the widespread, habitual, use of ‘bags for life’. This is an interesting case because whilst a consistent message of ‘saving the environment’ has been the basis of the promotion of ‘bags for life’ in the United Kingdom for many years, their uptake has only recently become more widespread and still remains at low levels. Through an exploratory study, we unpack some of the contextual barriers which may influence ethical consumerism. We do this by examining the attitudes which influenced people to start using ‘bags for life’, and how people persuade others to use ‘bags for life’. We use a case study analysis to try and understand why ethical behaviour change has stalled and not become sustained. We find that both individuals and institutions play a significant interaction role in encouraging a sustained behavioural change towards ethical consumerism.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



British Broadcasting Corporation


British Retail Consortium, a leading trade association in the United Kingdom (UK) representing all forms of retailers


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, a UK government department responsible for policy and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs


WRAP is funded by all four governments across the UK and the EU and run programmes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to help people recycle more and waste less, both at home and at work


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Correspondence to Pamela Yeow.

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Yeow, P., Dean, A. & Tucker, D. Bags for Life: The Embedding of Ethical Consumerism. J Bus Ethics 125, 87–99 (2014).

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