Home > Blog > The Intention-Behaviour Gap in Ethical Consumption – Jan. 2024
  • Clothing & Footwear
  • Ethical Consumption Trends
  • Financial Products
  • Food & Drink
  • Personal & Household Care
  • Tourism & Mobility

The Intention-Behaviour Gap in Ethical Consumption – Jan. 2024

Share this article:

Ethical consumption has become a prevalent aspiration among European consumers. Yet, a noticeable gap exists: these consumers have not fully embraced ethical consumption models. Our European survey from December 2022 echoes previous findings, revealing a pronounced discrepancy between what we aspire to do and what we practice in terms of ethical purchasing and consumption.

The ethical consumption paradox across various consumer sectors

Our study reveals that just over half of consumers who consider ethical consumption important, or very important, actually buy ethical products regularly. However, this contradiction varies across different categories. Depending on the type of goods and services, consumers show diverse expectations and levels of adherence to their principles. About two-thirds regularly purchase ethical food & drink items, with a majority desiring even more options. In contrast, less than half regularly opt for ethical financial products, with less than a third asking for more ethical alternatives. Variations in purchasing patterns and expectations for ethical options are evident in areas like clothing & footwear, personal & household care, and tourism & mobility. Each sector displays varying degrees of maturity regarding its range of ethical product offerings. Additionally, consumers often prioritize certain categories to ensure their consumption choices align with their personal values.

Exploring the reasons behind the gap

The gap between intention and behaviour in ethical consumption stems from two primary sources: human nature and external influences. Social psychology illuminates the human biases contributing to this gap. Impulsive decision-making, emotional sway, pursuit of comfort, and societal or cultural pressures are significant factors. The neutralization theory, proposed by Sykes and Matza in 1957, explains how we occasionally rationalize ethical inconsistencies for comfort or pleasure.

External barriers like high prices, limited availability, and inadequate information also hinder ethical choices. Our survey of ethically conscious Europeans revealed that 54% view cost as the primary obstacle, particularly in France and the UK. Around a third, mainly in Germany, Spain, and Italy, report limited availability and/or vague information as significant challenges. Only 4% see no external barriers to ethical consumption.

Bridging the gap in ethical consumption

Addressing the intention-behaviour gap in ethical consumption requires a collective approach, extending beyond mere awareness. Ensuring the availability and affordability of ethical products and services is crucial to elevate ethical consumption beyond an idealistic pursuit. Cultural shifts and social standards also play a crucial role. Additionally, governments and regulatory agencies are pivotal in narrowing this gap. Enacting policies that encourage ethical production and discourage unethical practices can level the playing field. Such regulations should mandate transparency in sourcing and production, giving consumers the necessary information for ethical decisions. Technological advancements are equally important. Tools like ethical rating apps, blockchain for supply chain clarity, and platforms linking consumers to ethical producers are essential.

Lastly, closing this gap demands a unified effort from all societal sectors to foster an environment where ethical consumption is a practical daily choice. The future of ethical consumption depends on our collective capacity to comprehend, embrace, and act on these complex challenges. Etikord’s mission is therefore to inform, connect, and engage consumers and brands to foster learning, trust, and collaboration. And we won’t rest until the gap between intention and behaviour in ethical consumption is bridged.

Share this article:
event event

Interested in writing for the community?

Share your insights and experiences with our community.
Your contributions will nourish our collective intelligence and ignite constructive debates.
Write with us!
Get In Touch!