Ethical Consumption: Uncovering Personal Meanings and Negotiation Strategies

Saroja Subrahmanyan, Robert Stinerock, Catherine Banbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this paper is to examine how individuals define ethical consumption (EC) and then how they negotiate ethical consumption as they move from one country to another. The authors explore these questions by reporting on and interpreting the evolution of their understanding of EC and their own ethical consumption behavior, the EC practices that have endured over time and national contexts, the tensions they encountered in maintaining EC practices in these transitions and the adaptive strategies they used to manage those tensions. While there has been research on the tensions faced by individuals practicing EC, there has been a paucity of research investigating those tensions from a cross-country and longitudinal perspective. Moreover, although several studies have focused on EC purchase practices of specific goods (e.g., athletic shoes, fair-trade commodities), none has considered this question in the context of purchases of basic needs categories – food, water, energy, transportation and housing. Each of the three authors has been able to maintain his or her own personal consumption ethic in spite of living in different countries. Whenever consumption practices emanate from, and are imbedded within, a strong ethical framework of values that informs EC, each was able to make the necessary adjustments to overcome the obstacles and points of resistance across countries. Even in those situations involving considerable inconvenience and discomfort, each used adaptive strategies that allowed retention of their consumption practices. Among those strategies employed by the authors were choice of community in which to live, self-regulation and self-reliance.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Ethical consumption
  • Culture
  • Researcher introspection
  • Basic needs
  • Enduring practices
  • Negotiation strategies


  • Business
  • Economics

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