The conscious consumer: taking a flexible approach to ethical behaviour

Isabelle Szmigin, Marylyn Carrigan, Morven G. McEachern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


This paper considers the ethical purchasing of what is described as conscious consumers. Conscious consumers remain a ‘work in progress’, and present a complex mix of behaviours; while seeking ethical alternatives, other social and economic forces impact on their behaviour (e.g. family, convenience, price) such that positive ethical choices are not always made. Examining ethical consumption in this way reveals the ‘competing priorities, paradoxical outcomes, and the nature of compromises reached in real decision processes’. We identify two areas of theory relevant to the conceptualization of such consumers, flexibility and dissonance theory. A qualitative study of participants identified as conscious consumers was undertaken. As anticipated, the participants revealed a range of often contradictory behaviours regarding their ethical purchases. The relevance of flexibility and dissonance theory to their behaviour is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-231
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


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