Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 579–598 | Cite as

Are Ethical Consumers Happy? Effects of Ethical Consumers' Motivations Based on Empathy Versus Self-orientation on Their Happiness

  • Kumju HwangEmail author
  • Hyewon Kim


Studies on fair-trade consumption have concentrated on economic, demographic, and ethical issues, and research on consumers’ moral emotions and self-orientation is limited. Although consumers’ satisfaction with their consumption has been emphasized in consumer studies and marketing, little substantive empirical research has addressed ethical consumers’ emotional satisfaction and the link between their motivations and happiness. This study focused on ethical consumers who regularly purchase fair-trade coffee to understand their moral emotions and self-orientation as motivations for fair-trade consumption and determine whether empathy and self-oriented motivations led to their happiness. A survey was conducted on 471 regular purchasers of at least one cup of fair-trade coffee weekly or a pack of fair-trade coffee beans monthly. The survey data were analyzed using partial least squares. The results showed that guilt was positively associated with empathy, which positively influenced self-actualization. Contrary to the proposed hypothesis, empathy did not elicit consumers’ happiness. As expected, narcissism affected self-actualization, which in turn elicited happiness. Happiness was positively associated with customers’ repurchase intentions for fair-trade coffee. The results of this study demonstrate the strong associations of the paths from narcissism to self-actualization, self-actualization to happiness, and self-actualization to repurchase intentions compared to the paths from guilt to empathy, empathy to happiness, and empathy to repurchase intentions. Contrary to common expectations, the results indicate that self-oriented motivations focused on self-actualization rather than moral emotions (guilt and empathy) play key roles in ethical consumers’ happiness with fair-trade consumption.


Empathy Fair-trade coffee Guilt Happiness Narcissism Repurchase intention Self-actualization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, College of Business and EconomicsChung-Ang UniversityDongjak-guSouth Korea

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