The Influence of Ethics on Consumer Behavior


Recently, there has been an increasing interest concerning the aspect of consumer behavior. Researchers used the empirical data focused on the issue of the influence of ethics on consumer behavior in order to determine the peculiarities of the tangible links that exist between moral principles and the ways of perceiving special marketing strategies. Not surprisingly, a tremendous variety of researchers suggests credible definitions of ethics and professionalism, thereby narrowing their points to the particular fields of everyday life. As every decision-making process correlates with the ethical aspect of the matter, it is reasonable to conjecture that ethics plays a significant role in consumer behavior. Presumably, ethics exerts a noticeable influence on consumer behavior, being deeply ingrained in every decision or choice in the context of production, marketing, and environmental issues that foster different responses.


It is widely acknowledged that ethics originates from a result that occurs because of the interaction between moral principles that determine a person’s experience or views and the influential factors that trigger some conclusions a person reaches. Although the realization of ethics is individual and subjective for everyone, it is necessary to highlight the fact that nowadays ethics bares evident relationship to professionalism, especially in marketing. However, there is still a need to shed light on the concept of ethics due to the reason that its variables have always been subject to research. Despite the fact that the definition of ethics varies in different cases, Hira (1996) attaches the highest importance to it in the context of consumer behavior. The scholar holds the view that the definition of ethics is connected with the three indispensable points that insure its existence and lead to the understanding of its meaning. First and most importantly, Hira (1996) puts an emphasis on the presence of particular moral principles, the violation of which may harm people and simultaneously benefit others. Secondly, the author brings into focus the obligatory presence of a moral instigator and a particular decision under question. Thirdly, Hira (1996) defines an ethical decision as something “both legal and morally acceptable to the larger community” (p. 421). Taking into account the above-mentioned points, Hira evaluates a person’s eagerness to make the environment more compatible with the proper level of life expectations.

In the context of consumer behavior, ethics manifests itself in the customers’ decision-making process and provokes the issues of sustainability of the environmental resources. As many scholars have repeatedly readdressed the problem of ethics in consumer behavior due to the controversial nature of a person’s perception, it is essential to review the literature that concentrates on the existing relation between ethics and a consumer of a particular product. Hill and Lee (2012) consider the ethical implications for the consumer behavior in the light of the apparel industry. Reaching the conclusion that the understanding of sustainability differs, there is a background to support Hira’s (1996) theoretical framework of ethics. A consumer’s attitude to a particular product mirrors their intentions and implies certain moral principles that an individual follows so as not to harm the environment.

Hill and Lee (2012) bring into focus the assumption that knowledge empowerment leads to the increased awareness of the environmental problems that usually triggers the consumer behavior that is ethical in nature. It is worth mentioning that the researchers agree with Hira (1996) taking the stance that education is crucial in the development of a cognizant and environmentally friendly consumer guided by the proper codes of ethics. Lim, Ting, Wong, and Khoo (2012) concur with this view, enlarging upon the idea of responsible consumption in terms of apparel acquisition. The underlying empirical data suggest that the determination of the main peculiarities of a customer’s attitude to consumption stimulates the elaboration of proper marketing strategies. Therefore, it is possible to consider ethics in the context of consumer behavior with respect to consumer-oriented marketing strategies.

The scholars assume that recently, ethics has exerted a tremendous impact on the consumer perception of different products (Lim et al., 2012). Thus, ethics influence their decisions every time the consumers perceive the information and reach conclusions. Not surprisingly, in the context of consumer behavior, ethics mostly manifests itself in the need to reduce the unnecessary purchases. In order to show the influence of ethics on consumer behavior, researchers analyze the problem of apparel acquisition and its implications for the exhaustible nature of resources (Lim et al., 2012; Hill & Lee, 2012; Hae, Cao, Farr, & Heine, 2012). In their studies, scholars delineate the tangible links that exist between ethics and consumer behavior, analyzing the issue of high levels of consumption and its influence on the apparel industry. In addition to these implications, the issue of apparel acquisition tends to attach significance to the environmental sustainability that already has an ethical background. Therefore, the most interesting aspect in this matter closely relates to advertising that contributes to consumer behavior. In fact, the nature of human perception has changed over the last thirty years. It is possible to explain these changes by the development of advertising, which is the most effective way of marketing products. Nowadays, consumers are at risk of buying something because of their sense of understanding that is exposed to advertising. Thus, conscious perception leads to understanding that may be either objective or subjective (De Mooij, 2011). From the perspective of ethics, advertising may serve as an issue that fosters ethical concerns.

As advertising may have deleterious effects on the consumer behavior, it may result in the consumer’s excessive and irresponsible consumption of goods in the apparel industry. The basic ethical strategy that Lim et al. (2012) implement consists in finding the reasons why ‘more’ in this particular case with the apparel industry seems to be ‘less.’ The researchers enlarge upon the role of fashion in the apparel acquisition and consider it as a major contributor to the irresponsible consumption of the underlying goods. Lim et al. (2012) clarify the bonds that exist between consumption and ethics, claiming that consumption relates to the environmental importance and affects the state of resources, making them less available in the future.

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Interestingly, the information that the consumer attaches to the perceived context is crucial in decision-making and sustainability (Hill & Lee, 2012; Lim et al., 2012). However, it is reasonable to admit that manufacturers process the underlying information and later make professional ethical decisions. By means of elaborating a particular model of apparel acquisition C2CAD, Hae et al. (2009) bring into focus the practical guidelines for manufacturers to insure environmental sustainability and protection. As the majority considers this particular model ethical, it aims at exerting a positive influence on the consumer behavior providing the customers with additional support in their decisions. Hae et al. (2009) put an emphasis on the fact that apparel industry is the most powerful contributing factor to the damage of the environment because of the production of cotton that requires the use of a tremendous amount of pesticides and fertilizers. Due to this, C2CAD model was elaborated with the purpose of influencing consumer behavior and addressing the ethical background of this matter. Apparently, one may view the influence of ethics on consumer behavior in the light of the manufacturer’s reluctance to pollute the environment and the decision to devise a model that would insure further life of the product after the consumer used it. C2CAD model’s objectives encompass the consumer’s ability to contribute to the protection of the environment by purchasing clothes that will further act as “biological nutrients” (Hae et al., 2009). Consequently, this case provokes the assumption that ethics not only has an influence on the consumer behavior, but it also manifests itself at the level of professionalism, fostering the development of new models that will address the issue of environmental sustainability.


One can easily assume that the scholars relate ethical issues to consumer behavior (Hae et al., 2009; Hill & Lee, 2012; Lim et al., 2012). The underlying issues are mainly induced because of the consumers’ moral principles and world-views that constitute the driving force in the aspect of consumption in general. The studies supplement each other, seeking for the sources of irresponsible consumer behavior as well as providing the solutions for educating responsible and conscientious consumers. In addition, ethics bare relation to the issue of professionalism that was shown in the light of manufacturer’s eagerness to act ethically.

Although the scholars address the matter from different perspectives, their studies still remain limited in the course of time and have implications for further research. As all the above-mentioned researchers seek to find the solutions to the problems of irresponsible consumption, further research should bring into focus the particular methods and strategies that would insure the protection of the environment. Furthermore, the research should focus on the influence of ethics on consumer behavior and encompass all the possible issues that relate to the consumer decision-making process that people usually see in the light of environmental factors. It is crucial to examine the ethical aspect in order to establish the new ways to address the problems of environmental sustainability and employ new strategies that may be helpful in conserving the resources. In fact, the research ought to take into account the sources of ethical reasoning that are known to originate from the peculiarities of the upbringing and the family’s ethics in particular.

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