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Ethical consumers needs and behaviour

Researching about ethical attitudes in people is not an easy task, mostly because surveying directly without any method can lead to biased results. Vantomme (2005) affirms: “weak attitude-behaviour relationships are often found in research about ethical consumer behaviour.” 

And she says that “although the consumers’ commitment to ethical issues has grown in the recent years (Nicholls 2002) ethical consumer behaviour remains under-researched (Folkes and Kamins 1999 Uusitalo an Okansen 2004) however this raising concern does not seem to translate in to actual purchase behaviour, several authors have reported an attitude behaviour gap.” 

This findings demonstrate how important its to try to understand the users needs in order to facilitate their decision making process which will help them to achieve their goals.

How UK consumers seek for  “ethical products” information?

As seen before, numbers are different when it comes the moment to compare intention to action, when the true comes up and the ethical consumer becomes a rare species. 

A report of the NCC lead by Paul Steedman (2005) mention that “seeking out information and advice on sustainable (understanding for this ethical) consumption is a specialist concern.” Demonstrating it with the following results.

Research enthusiasm

“Only a relatively small number of consumers have actively sought out more information:

  • 19% on at least one topic.
  • 8% for five or more.

This is in stark contrast to levels of information-seeking behavior on other long-term issues:

Related to topics

Consumers said they have sought at least some information on:

  • 75% how to live more healthily.
  • 63% pensions and savings.
  • 18% are simply not interested in finding out more on sustainable consumption.

Age and social status

Seekers of information and advice are:

  • More likely to be aged 35-44 and in professional or managerial occupations considerably.
  • Less likely to be 15-24 or 65+ and less affluent

Geographical concentration

Seekers are also more likely to come from the south of England (excluding London). They are much more likely to be motivated by their personal beliefs and by environmental campaign groups than ‘non-seekers’. 

This profile places them among the most active of ‘green’ or ‘ethical’ consumers.

Information presentation preferences

Consumers more commonly seek information on topics that:

  • Are well-publicized with simple messages about consumer action.
  • Appear to deliver tangible, close-to-home benefits.
  • Present fewer practical barriers to consumer action.


On which information is most frequently sought are those relating to:

  • Saving energy.
  • Recycling and organic.
  • Free-range and fairtrade foods.