Determinants of consumer intention towards ethical buying

Kuldiloke, Somsawai (2012) Determinants of consumer intention towards ethical buying. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Consumer awareness about ethical issues has been growing over the last decades. Knowledge and awareness about ethical products has led to businesses responding with a variety of ethical products for the consumers. The growth in ethical products market has attracted the interest of researchers as evidenced in a growing body of literature on ethical behaviour. Ethical decision-making models in the extant research tend to emphasise social interest values, such as ethical obligation and ethical self-identity, as predictors of ethical behaviour. However, little is known about factors such as self-interest values and motives, crucial in the formation of attitudes and behaviour towards ethical purchases. Furthermore, research evidence, as well as industry reports, highlights that although consumers generally have a positive attitude towards purchasing ethical products, there is a discrepancy between their attitudes, intention and actual purchase behaviour. Whilst the link between intention and behaviour has been found to be generally tenuous, studies in the domain of consumer research suggest that intention to purchase can be treated as a predictor of behaviour (i.e., an immediate precursor of actual purchase). The determinants of consumers' intention to purchase ethical products, incorporating self-interest values and motives, are the focus of this study. Much of the prior research in ethical buying behaviour has focused on fast moving consumer goods categories, which are considered to be 'low-involvement' purchases. In contrast, involvement is considered to be an important underlying motivation for consumer purchase of other products such as clothing. Therefore, the product category of ethical clothing is chosen for investigation in this study because of the 'high-involvement' nature of fashion purchases. Understanding the determinants of consumer intention towards ethical buying can provide insights on consumers' motivational state (i.e., social interest and self-interest) influencing ethical choices. Specifically, this research examines the role of involvement in consumers' decision-making process to purchase ethical clothing (direct and moderating effects of clothing involvement). The data were collected via online survey instrument from an existing panel of a UK-based market research company. The proposed research model was tested employing the Partial Least Squares-based Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM). The direct and moderating effects of clothing involvement were tested by using the two-stage approach. The second-order formative measurement model of clothing involvement (hierarchical components model) was estimated using the repeated indicators approach. The results show that ethical self-identity and subjective norm have a significant impact in ethical clothing purchase decisions. Clothing involvement was found to weaken the relationship between ethical obligation and intention towards ethical buying, whilst it strengthened the relationship between ethical self-identity and intention towards ethical buying. This thesis further establishes that consumers' perceived balance between ethical self¬identity (commitment to individual's ethical augmentation) and clothing involvement (social identity and/or fashion identity) is a step towards bridging the ethical purchasing gap. This thesis is considered to make the following contributions to knowledge and theory in the domain of consumer ethical buying behaviour. First, the formulation of the conceptual model incorporating self-interest values and motives is an advancement of the existing ethical decision-making models for predicting consumer intention to purchase high-involvement ethical products. Second, this study reveals that product involvement plays a moderating role in the consumer ethical decision-making process. Finally, this study provides evidence for the mediating role of ethical obligation on the relationship between attitude and intention.

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