Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 439–460 | Cite as

The Ethical Consumer. Moral Norms and Packaging Choice

  • John Thφgersen

Abstract

This study investigates whether the claim that environmental attitudes are based on moral reasoning is valid with regard to consumer buying attitudes, as it has been shown to be in other domains of consumer behaviour. It is proposed that two conditions make moral reasoning in the buying situation more likely: environmental concern and the absence of other highly involving characteristics. The paper presents a study of a case with these two characteristics: Danish consumers' choice of environment-friendly packaging. With regard to this case, the evidence supports the claim. A majority of Danish consumers have developed personal norms about choosing environment-friendly packaging and the personal norm is a significant predictor of their (self-reported) propensity to choose environment-friendly packaging in the supermarket (whereas perceived costs have a minor influence on the choice). It is recommended that attempts to promote this and similar behaviour focus on strengthening consumers' intrinsic motivation and on facilitating its transformation into behaviour.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Ackerman, F. (1997). Why do we recycle? Markets, values, and public policy. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Assael, H. (1987). Consumer behavior and marketing action. Boston: Kent.Google Scholar
  4. Bech-Larsen, T. (1996). Danish consumers' attitudes to the functional and environmental characteristics of food packaging. Journal of Consumer Policy, 19, 339-363.Google Scholar
  5. Berger, I. E., & Corbin, R. M. (1992). Perceived consumer effectiveness and faith in others as moderators of environmentally responsible behaviors. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 11, 79-89.Google Scholar
  6. Black, J. S., Stern, P. C., & Elworth, J. T. (1985). Personal and contextual influences on household energy adaptations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 3-21.Google Scholar
  7. Blinder, A. S. (1987). Hard heads, soft hearts. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  8. Brehm, S. S., & Brehm, J. W. (1981). Psychological reactance: A theory of freedom and control. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Clee, M., & Wicklund, R. (1980). Consumer behavior and psychological reactance. Journal of Consumer Research, 6, 389-405.Google Scholar
  10. Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18, 105-115.Google Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L. (1972). Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic reinforcement, and inequity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 113-120.Google Scholar
  12. Deci, E. L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  13. Deci, E. L., & Flaste, R. (1995). Why we do what we do. Understanding self-motivation. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  14. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dunlap, R. E. (1991). Trends in public opinion toward environmental issues: 1965–1990. Society and Natural Resources, 4, 285-312.Google Scholar
  16. Dunlap, R. E., Gallup, G. H., & Gallup, A. M. (1993). Of global concern: Results of the health of the planet survey. Environment, 35(9), 7-39.Google Scholar
  17. Ellen, P. S., Wiener, J. L., & Cobb-Walgren, C. (1991). The role of perceived consumer effectiveness in motivating environmentally conscious behaviors. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 10, 102-117.Google Scholar
  18. Fazio, R. H. (1986). How do attitudes guide behavior? In: R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), The handbook of motivation and cognition: Foundations of social behavior, pp. 204-243. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  19. Fazio, R.H., Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R., & Powell, M. C. (1994). Attitudes, perception, and attention. In: P. R. Niedenthal & S. Kitayama (Eds.), The heart's eye: Emotional influence in perception and attention, pp. 197-216. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  20. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  21. Frey, B. (1997). Not just for the money. An economic theory of personal motivation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  22. Gaus, G. F. (1994). The limits of homo economicus. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. New York, September 1–4.Google Scholar
  23. Guagnano, G. A., Stern, P. C., & Dietz, T. (1995). Influences on attitude-behavior relationships. A natural experiment with curbside recycling. Environment and Behavior, 27, 699-718.Google Scholar
  24. Heberlein, T. A. (1972). The land ethic realized: Some social psychological explanations for changing environmental attitudes. Journal of Social Issues, 28(4), 79-87.Google Scholar
  25. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom (1990). LISREL 7 and PRELIS: User's guide and reference. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Agency.Google Scholar
  26. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1993). LISREL 8: Structural equation modelling with the SIMPLIS command language. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  27. Mazis, M. B. (1975). Antipollution measures and psychological reactance theory: A field experiment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 654-660.Google Scholar
  28. Mazis, M. B., Settle, R. B., & Leslie, D. C. (1973). Elimination of phosphate detergents and psychological reactance. Journal of Marketing Research, 10, 390-395.Google Scholar
  29. Michael, J. H., & Smith, P. M. (1993). The “green gap” in proenvironmental attitudes and product availability: Parental tradeoffs in diapering decision-making. In: Proceedings of the 1993 Marketing and Public Policy Conference, pp. 109-122. Chicago: American Marketing Association.Google Scholar
  30. Miljø-og Energiministeriet (1995). Natur-og miljøpolitisk redegørelse 1995 (A report on the state of the nature and the environment, 1995). Copenhagen: The Ministry of Environment and Energy.Google Scholar
  31. Obermiller, C. (1995). The baby is sick/the baby is well: A test of environmental communication appeals. Journal of Advertising, 24(2), 55-70.Google Scholar
  32. Ölander, F., & Thøgersen, J. (1995). Understanding of consumer behaviour as a prerequisite for environmental protection. Journal of Consumer Policy, 18, 317-357.Google Scholar
  33. Peattie, K. (1995). Environmental marketing management: Meeting the green challenge. London: Pitman.Google Scholar
  34. Reich, J. W., & Robertson, J. L. (1979). Reactance and norm appeal in anti-littering messages. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 9, 91-101.Google Scholar
  35. Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R., & Fazio, R. H. (1992). On the orienting value of attitudes: Attitude accessibility as a determinant of an object's attraction of visual attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 198-211.Google Scholar
  36. Schwartz, S. H. (1970). Moral decision making and behavior. In: J. Macauley & L. Berkowitz (Eds.), Altruism and helping behavior, pp. 127-141. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  37. Schwartz, S. H. (1977). Normative influence on altruism. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 10, 221-279.Google Scholar
  38. Smith, N. C. (1990). Morality and the market. Consumer pressure for corporate accountability. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Stern, P. C., Dietz, T., & Black, J. S. (1986). Support for environmental protection: The role of moral norms. Population and Environment, 8, 204-222.Google Scholar
  40. Stern, P. C., Dietz, T., Ruttan, V. W., Socolow, R. H., & Sweeney, J. L. (Eds.) (1997). Environmentally significant consumption. Research directions. Washington, DC: National Academy Press for the National Research Council.Google Scholar
  41. Stern, P. C., & Kirkpatrick, E. M. (1977). Energy behavior: Conservation without coercion. Environment, 10, 10-15.Google Scholar
  42. Sudman, S., Bradburn, N. M., & Schwarz, N. (1996). Thinking about answers. The application of cognitive processes to survey methodology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  43. Thøgersen, J. (1994). Monetary incentives and environmental concern. Effects of a differentiated garbage fee. Journal of Consumer Policy, 17, 407-442.Google Scholar
  44. Thøgersen, J. (1996). The demand for environmentally friendly packaging in Germany. Aarhus: The Aarhus School of Business, Centre for Market Surveillance, Research and Strategy for the Food Sector. Working Paper No. 30.Google Scholar
  45. Thøgersen, J. (1998). Knowledge barriers to sustainable consumption. Paper presented at the Nordic Consumer Research Conference, Lillehammer, Norway, 11–14 November.Google Scholar
  46. Thøgersen, J., & Andersen, A. K. (1996). Environmentally friendly consumer behavior: The interplay of moral attitudes, private costs, and facilitating conditions. In: R. P. Hill & C. R. Taylor (Eds.), Marketing and Public Policy Conference proceedings, Vol. 6, pp. 80-96. Chicago: American Marketing Association.Google Scholar
  47. Thøgersen, J., & Bech-Larsen, T. (1993). Emballagens miljøbelastning. En mål-middelanalyse af forbrugernes problemopfattelse og løsningsstrategier (The burden on the environment caused by packaging. An ends-mean analysis of consumers' problem awareness and solution strategies). Paper presented at the Nordic Network Conference, Business Strategy and the Environment, Gothenburg, Sweden.Google Scholar
  48. Tourangeau, R. (1992). Context effects on responses to attitude questions: Attitudes as memory structures. In: N. Schwarz & S. Sudman (Eds.), Context effects in social and psychological research, pp. 35-47. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  49. Van Vugt, M., Van Lange, P. A. M., Meertens, R. M., & Joireman, J. A. (1996). How a structural solution to a real-world social dilemma failed: A field experiment on the first carpool lane in Europe. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59, 364-374.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Thφgersen
    • 1
  1. 1.The Aarhus School of BusinessAarhus VDenmark.E-mail

Personalised recommendations