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Sustainable Business, Social Responsibility, Ethics and Consumer Behaviour Research

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2021) | Viewed by 41758

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Digital and Data Driven Marketing, Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Interests: consumer behaviour; branding; CSR; social media
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Department of Digtial and Data Driven Marketing, Southampton Business School University of Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1BJ, UK
Interests: consumer psychology; international marketing; social media marketing; branding strategy; advertising

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Guest Editor
Department of Management, Birkbeck University of London, London WC1E 7HX, UK
Interests: consumer behaviour; services marketing; business research methods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues:

Sustainability-related issues have gained increasing attention of consumers over the past few years. In response, several businesses have embraced this trend by investing in circular business models, and by communicating their sustainable practices. Results from the Nielsen’s Conference Board at Global Consumer Confidence Survey[i] indicate that 81% of global consumers feel strongly about the socially responsible practices of companies, especially those aimed at protecting the environment. Sustainable practices, therefore, are emerging from growing consumer demands. Nevertheless, companies are also known to be reaping benefits from sustainability awareness. Estimates suggests that the market for sustainable goods is likely to be worth $150bn by 2021[ii].

How consumers behave towards sustainable, ethical business practices, and corporate social responsibility poses one of the foremost research challenges in the twenty-first century. Consumer responses to sustainable practices of businesses are however more complex than one might expect. There is an inherent tension between the promotion of sustainability by the companies on one hand, and on the other the consumer adoption of sustainable lifestyles that can benefit wider society. Scholarly work on sustainable and ethical consumption [4,7,8,14] alludes to the willingness of consumers to politically engage in the promotion of ethical and sustainable lifestyles (e.g., climate change awareness and protests, consumption of fair-trade products, environmentally sustainable consumption). One stream of the literature specifically points out the importance of the virtues of individuals underpinned by moral values such as sustainability and ethical responsibility, in driving sustainable consumption [3,9]. The trends in practice show that individuals are increasingly willing to adopt more circular practices, such as extending the lifetime of their mobile handset [1].

In contrast with the notion supporting anticonsumerism practices, there is growing recognition from scholars and business practices that the gap between consumers’ attitudes towards sustainability and actual behaviours is far from diminished [5,10,16]. Favourable consumer attitudes towards sustainability and corporate social responsibility practices by businesses [12, 11] do not always translate into sustainable and/or ethical behaviour and sometimes can even result in the advancement of consumerism. In the same vein, consumer scepticism towards sustainable and socially responsible businesses is also on the rise [13]. Similarly, while seemingly willing to penalise organisations’ unethical practices perceived as hypocritical [15], consumers are paradoxically still defensive towards big companies which are often at the forefront of consumerism trends [2]. Such inconsistency between the promotion of sustainability and the espousal of accelerated consumerism behaviours suggests that the domain merits further research.

Questions concerning consumer traits and/or circumstances that might promote sustainable lifestyles, and anticonsumerism trends in the long run, remain underexplored. In addition, consumers’ ethical behaviours can vary across different segments, according to one’s social group, individual traits, background, and knowledge, as well as contextual cues including the sociocultural context in which consumers live [6]. In this regard, scholars have made renewed calls for a more nuanced understanding of consumer ethics and its unfolding in a cross-cultural context [8].

Against the above background, this Special Issue calls for empirical and conceptual papers that explore issues around sustainability, CSR, and consumer ethics, through the lenses of sociological, anthropological, psychological, and other research domains on consumers. Specifically, the Special Issue welcomes work on the following or any other relevant research themes:

  • The impact of CSR on consumer attitudes and behaviour, within and/or across cultures;
  • Defining and exploring the ethically minded consumers;
  • The moderating factors explaining the attitude–behaviour gap in sustainability research;
  • The state of consumer scepticism towards CSR and sustainable business practices;
  • The role of social media in promoting sustainable and ethical consumer behaviour;
  • How social innovations shape consumer attitudes towards sustainability;
  • Ethical and sustainable consumer behaviour, within and/or across cultures;
  • The adoption of circular consumer practices;
  • The drivers and outcomes of political engagement in anticonsumerism ;
  • Barriers and facilitators of sustainable consumption;
  • Virtue ethics through the lens of Eastern versus Western culture-specific consumption behaviours.

We welcome theoretical, empirical, experimental, and case study research contributions. Contributions should clearly address practical and theoretical implications of the research reported.

Guest Editors

Professor Jaywant Singh, University of Southampton

[email protected]

Dr Weisha Wang, University of Southampton

[email protected]

Dr Benedetta Crisafulli, Birkbeck University of London

[email protected]

Please direct all informal inquiries about the special issue to the guest editors.

References

  1. Ankiel, M.; Samotyja, U. The role of labels and perceived health risk in avoidable food wasting. Sustainability. 2020, 12,
  2. Antonetti, P.; Crisafulli, B.; Tuncdogan, A. Just look the other way”: Job seekers’ reactions to the irresponsibility of market-dominant employers.  Bus. Ethics. 2020, 1-20.
  3. Barnett, C.; Cafaro, P.; Newholm, T. Philosophy and ethical consumption. In The ethical consumer, Harrison, R., Newholm, T., Shaw, D., Eds.; SAGE Publications Ltd: London, UK, 2005; pp.11–24.
  4. Barnett, C.; Cloke, P.; Clarke, N.; Malpass, A. Globalizing responsibility: The political rationalities of ethical consumption. John Wiley & Sons: Oxford, UK, 2010.
  5. Caruana, R.; Carrington, M. J.; Chatzidakis, A. Beyond the attitude-behaviour gap: Novel perspectives in consumer ethics: Introduction to the thematic symposium.  Bus. Ethics2016, 136(2), 215-218.
  6. Gentina, E.; Tang, T.L.; Gu, Q. Do parents and peers influence adolescents’ monetary. Intelligence and consumer ethics? French and Chinese Adolescents and Behavioural Economics. Bus. Ethics. 2016, 151, 115-140.
  7. Hoffmann, S.; Hutter, K. Carrotmob as a new form of ethical consumption. The nature of the concept and avenues for future research. Consum. Policy. 2012, 35(2), 215–236.
  8. Karimova, G. S.; Hoffmann, N. C.; Heidbrink, L.; Hoffmann, S. Virtue Ethics between east and west in consumer research: review, synthesis and directions for future research.  Bus. Ethics. 2020165(2), 255-275.
  9. Schwartz, D. T.; Consuming choices: Ethics in a global consumer age. Rowman & Littlefield: London, UK, 2017.
  10. Shaw, D.; McMaster, R.; Newholm, T. Care and commitment in ethical consumption: An exploration of the ‘attitude–behaviour gap’.  Bus. Ethics. 2016, 136(2), 251-265.
  11. Singh, J.; The Influence of CSR and Ethical Self-Identity in Consumer Evaluation of Cobrands.  Bus. Ethics2016, 138,311–326.
  12. Singh, J.; de los Salmones Sanchez, M.; del Bosque, I. Understanding corporate social responsibility and product perceptions in consumer markets: a cross-cultural evaluation. Bus. Ethics. 2009, 80, 597–611.
  13. Skarmeas, D.; Leonidou, C. N. When consumers doubt, watch out! The role of CSR skepticism.  Bus. Res. 2013, 66(10), 1831-1838.
  14. Touchette, L.; Nepomuceno, M.V. The environmental impact of consumption lifestyles: ethically minded consumption vs. tightwads. Sustainability. 2020, 12,
  15. Wagner, T.; Lutz, Richard J.; Barton, A. W. Corporate hypocrisy: overcoming the threat of inconsistent corporate social responsibility perceptions. Mark. 2009, 73(6), 71–79.
  16. White, K.; Habib, R.; Hardisty, D. J. How to SHIFT consumer behaviors to be more sustainable: A literature review and guiding framework.  Mark2019, 83(3), 22-49.

i: https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/report/2018/the-education-of-the-sustainable-mindset/

ii: https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/was-2018-the-year-of-the-influential-sustainable-consumer/

Prof. Jaywant Singh
Dr. Weisha Wang
Dr. Benedetta Crisafulli
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • consumer ethics
  • CSR
  • sustainability
  • consumer behaviour
  • virtue ethics
  • anticonsumerism

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

20 pages, 1083 KiB  
Article
The Influence of Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics on Brand Fidelity: The Importance of Brand Love and Brand Attitude
by Tarcia Camily Cavalcante Quezado, Nuno Fortes and William Quezado Figueiredo Cavalcante
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2962; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052962 - 3 Mar 2022
Cited by 21 | Viewed by 7228
Abstract
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics are perceived as distinct constructs by the consumer, although research from this perspective is scarce. Thus, the objective of this study is to investigate the impact of CSR and business ethics on brand fidelity. A theoretical [...] Read more.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business ethics are perceived as distinct constructs by the consumer, although research from this perspective is scarce. Thus, the objective of this study is to investigate the impact of CSR and business ethics on brand fidelity. A theoretical review of CSR, business ethics, brand attitude, brand love, and brand fidelity was undertaken. From these constructs, a theoretical model was proposed, conducting an empirical study with a sample of 559 North American respondents. Through the statistical treatment of data with PLS-SEM, it was demonstrated that business ethics and CSR exert an indirect positive effect on brand fidelity, with relationships mediated by brand love. In turn, brand attitude exerts an indirect effect on brand fidelity, through the mediation of brand love. Based on the results, this study contributes to the approach of CSR and business ethics as distinct constructs and to the consolidation of the brand fidelity construct and its relationships. For management, this study helps organizations to perceive CSR and business ethics as important allies in a brand’s strategy. We conclude that although CSR remains important, customers value business ethics as a critical factor in their perceptions of the brand, contributing more strongly to brand fidelity. Full article
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24 pages, 6235 KiB  
Article
Corporate Social Responsibility and Marketing: A Bibliometric and Visualization Analysis of the Literature between the Years 1994 and 2020
by Tarcia Camily Cavalcante Quezado, William Quezado Figueiredo Cavalcante, Nuno Fortes and Ricardo Filipe Ramos
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1694; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031694 - 1 Feb 2022
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 5977
Abstract
Several studies explored the effect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on marketing. However, bibliometric research that organizes this production is scarce. Thus, this study aims to provide a bibliometric view of marketing-related CSR research, identifying this field’s state-of-the-art literature. Two thousand and forty-two [...] Read more.
Several studies explored the effect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on marketing. However, bibliometric research that organizes this production is scarce. Thus, this study aims to provide a bibliometric view of marketing-related CSR research, identifying this field’s state-of-the-art literature. Two thousand and forty-two articles were collected through the Web of Science (WoS) platform. Data were analyzed using VOSviewer software to map the data graphically. The results show that: (a) the literature on CSR in the marketing area is growing; (b) five articles alone accounted for 9940 citations, and there are several prolific authors; (c) the prominent journals identified in this research published 42.16% of the total; (d) The “Journal of Business Ethics” is the leader in the number of publications, followed by “Sustainability,” which has shown strong growth in recent years, and; (e) The US is the leading country, according to the number of articles and citations. The keyword trending network analysis revealed that CSR is becoming a strategic marketing approach for companies. This study offers an insight into the state-of-the-art and trends identification in CSR and marketing. Full article
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19 pages, 1270 KiB  
Article
Cause-Related Marketing and Ethnocentrism: The Moderating Effects of Geographic Scope and Perceived Economic Threat
by Ioanna Boulouta and Danae Manika
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 292; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010292 - 28 Dec 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2482
Abstract
Amongst the various factors that managers need to consider when designing a CRM campaign is the cause’s geographic scope, i.e., should the CRM campaign benefit local, national, or international communities? Although previous research has examined the importance of geographic scope in the effectiveness [...] Read more.
Amongst the various factors that managers need to consider when designing a CRM campaign is the cause’s geographic scope, i.e., should the CRM campaign benefit local, national, or international communities? Although previous research has examined the importance of geographic scope in the effectiveness of the CRM campaigns, it has largely ignored consumer reactions to CRM campaigns from a local cultural identity perspective, such as ethnocentric identity. This study brings together these two important factors to examine (through the lens of Social Identity Theory) how consumer ethnocentrism affects CRM effectiveness in campaigns varying in geographic scope. We test our hypotheses through an experimental study of 322 British consumers and three different geographic scopes (UK, Greece, and Ethiopia). Our results show that ethnocentric consumers show a positive bias towards products advertised through national CRM campaigns; however, there is a diversity of reactions towards different international geographic scopes, based on the levels of ‘perceived economic threat’. Ethnocentric consumers prefer international CRM campaigns that benefit people located in a country posing a lower vs. a higher economic threat to the domestic economy and the self. Our study contributes to a broader understanding of factors affecting the effectiveness of CRM campaigns and help managers design better CRM campaigns by carefully selecting the geographic scope, after considering a rising consumer segment: the ethnocentric consumer. Full article
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16 pages, 840 KiB  
Article
The Ethically Conscious Flower Consumer: Understanding Fair Trade Cut Flower Purchase Behavior in Germany
by Meike Rombach, David L. Dean, Nicole J. Olynk Widmar and Vera Bitsch
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12133; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112133 - 3 Nov 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 3836
Abstract
Fair trade flowers are an important niche product relevant to ethically conscious consumers. The study proposes a model that investigates key factors affecting the behavior of these cut flower consumers in Germany. The study serves to complement the existing studies dedicated to preferences [...] Read more.
Fair trade flowers are an important niche product relevant to ethically conscious consumers. The study proposes a model that investigates key factors affecting the behavior of these cut flower consumers in Germany. The study serves to complement the existing studies dedicated to preferences for flower attributes and products, as well as consumers’ willingness to pay. It builds on an online survey with a representative sample of 772 German cut-flower consumers. Partial least squares structural equation modelling shows that concern for the treatment of workers from countries with poor environmental and labor reputations, the breadth of fair trade cut flower information sources, and familiarity with the fair trade concept and its influence on flower production issues positively impact the relative importance that consumers dedicate to fair trade certification as a cut flower attribute. The same factors also positively impact fair trade cut flower buying behavior. Socio-demographic factors did not show any impact. The study concludes with best practice recommendations for retailers and horticultural marketers on how to address the needs and wants of ethically conscious consumers. Full article
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15 pages, 444 KiB  
Article
Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Green Behavior in the Hospitality Industry: A Cross-Country Study
by Sajid Rahman Khattak, Muhammad Nouman, Muhammad Fayaz, Laura Mariana Cismaș, Lucia Negruț, Constantin Viorel Negruț and Sultan Salem
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10534; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910534 - 23 Sep 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 3549
Abstract
This study empirically investigates the role of employees’ perceptions of CSR in improving their green behavior in the hospitality industry. In addition, this study investigates the mediating role of employee well-being and the moderating role of hotels’ environmental strategy in this relationship. Empirical [...] Read more.
This study empirically investigates the role of employees’ perceptions of CSR in improving their green behavior in the hospitality industry. In addition, this study investigates the mediating role of employee well-being and the moderating role of hotels’ environmental strategy in this relationship. Empirical analysis is performed in a cross-country setting using evidence from Pakistan and Italy. The study model is tested through PLS-SEM using survey data of 485 hotel employees. Findings from the overall sample and country-specific samples reveal that CSR is positively and significantly related to employee green behavior. Moreover, employee well-being serves as a significant mediator in the relationship between corporate social responsibility and employee green behavior, while hotels’ environmental strategy significantly moderates this relationship in the overall and country-specific samples. These results suggest that paradoxically, though the selected countries have different tourism implementation levels, economic development, and cultures, the employees’ perceptions of CSR and its effect on their green behavior do not vary significantly across both countries. Full article
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18 pages, 356 KiB  
Article
Recommendations for Sustainable Brand Personalities: An Empirical Study
by Friederike Paetz
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4747; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094747 - 23 Apr 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 4269
Abstract
Sustainability marketing has emerged as an important trend both in practice and academic literature. The relevant literature has heavily focused on determinations of sustainable consumer behavior, and practitioners have used these results to derive short-term marketing decisions, e.g., adequate pricing of sustainable products. [...] Read more.
Sustainability marketing has emerged as an important trend both in practice and academic literature. The relevant literature has heavily focused on determinations of sustainable consumer behavior, and practitioners have used these results to derive short-term marketing decisions, e.g., adequate pricing of sustainable products. However, no study has scrutinized derivations of sustainable brand personalities or provided important long-term, strategic, managerial implications for marketing managers of sustainable brands. This study aims to contribute to this underrepresented research field and makes recommendations for preferred brand personality dimensions for sustainable brands. First, the personality structure of sustainable consumers by using a preference-based two-step segmentation approach is investigated, and subsequent profiling of the sustainable consumer segment is conducted. The research relies on the results of an empirical discrete choice experiment and a personality test, including the data of a representative German consumer sample. Sustainable consumers were found to be highly agreeable and open. Second, the personality results of sustainable consumers are linked to consumers’ personality-specific preferred brand personalities. Third, recommendations for harmonic brand personality dimensions for sustainable brands, e.g., competence, excitement, and sincerity, are derived, and therefore, long-term, strategic, managerial implications are provided. Full article
18 pages, 2308 KiB  
Article
A Business Case for Marine Protected Areas: Economic Valuation of the Reef Attributes of Cozumel Island
by José Alberto Lara-Pulido, Ángela Mojica, Aaron Bruner, Alejandro Guevara-Sanginés, Cecilia Simon, Felipe Vásquez-Lavin, Cristopher González-Baca and María José Infanzón
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4307; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084307 - 13 Apr 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3989
Abstract
Tourism to Cozumel Island generates USD 762 million annually in local economic activity, and 111 visitors stay in local hotels for each inhabitant. The island’s coast is its principal attraction, yet water quality and reef health are threatened. This paper studies the link [...] Read more.
Tourism to Cozumel Island generates USD 762 million annually in local economic activity, and 111 visitors stay in local hotels for each inhabitant. The island’s coast is its principal attraction, yet water quality and reef health are threatened. This paper studies the link between the local economy and management of Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, using a choice experiment to assess the economic value visitors assign to underwater visibility, biodiversity, and visitor congestion in reef areas. We found that, on average, tourists are willing to pay USD 190 per visit to avoid a projected decrease in biodiversity, USD 120 per visit to prevent a projected decline in visibility, and USD 98 to avoid high congestion during reef visits. We find high heterogeneity in willingness to pay estimates, which may be useful for targeting both conservation and marketing efforts. On the other hand, increasing the reef access fee from USD 2 to USD 6 could fully fund effective protected area management, with no substantial effect on visitors’ consumer surplus. Results suggest that a conservation surcharge could be added to all tours, with little impact on visitation, and that significantly increasing private sector collaboration and government spending on conservation would be good economic choices. Full article
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14 pages, 443 KiB  
Article
Is Sustainable Consumption Translated into Ethical Consumer Behavior?
by Monica-Maria Tomșa, Andreea-Ioana Romonți-Maniu and Mircea-Andrei Scridon
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3466; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063466 - 21 Mar 2021
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 7616
Abstract
Nowadays, sustainability is assumed to have high potential for promoting ethical consumer behavior. The aim of this study was to analyze the influence of sustainable behavior on consumer intention to be ethical when it comes to political, social, and environmental dimensions. Therefore, insightful [...] Read more.
Nowadays, sustainability is assumed to have high potential for promoting ethical consumer behavior. The aim of this study was to analyze the influence of sustainable behavior on consumer intention to be ethical when it comes to political, social, and environmental dimensions. Therefore, insightful results can be brought forward to explain consumer ethical behavior from a different perspective. Covariance structural equation modelling in AMOS was used for data analysis. Three antecedents, namely environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainable consumption, are found to have a significant and positive impact on intention to engage in ethically consumer behavior. In this context, companies seeking to proactively approach eco-friendly consumers will need to understand the complexity of the decision-making process of ethically minded consumers. Full article
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