2009-07 The social economics of ethical consumption
Recent years have seen rising discussion of ethical consumption as a means of stemming global warming, challenging unsavory business practices, and promoting other pro-social goals. This paper first lays out a conceptual framework for understanding the spread of ethical consumption, in which heterogeneous preferences and sensitivity to social norms feature centrally. It then presents empirical evidence from a well-known nationally representative survey on factors associated with tendencies to ‘buy ethically’. It is found that, ceteris paribus, people are more likely to buy ethically when others around them do too, consistent with a role of social norms in promoting ethical-consumption behaviors.