Drivers of Socially Responsible Purchasing Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Investigation

Drivers of Socially Responsible Purchasing Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Investigation

Min-Young Lee (Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA) and Scarlett C. Wesley (Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/ijabe.2012100104
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Abstract

Retailers and companies increasingly employ corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a global management strategy. They are motivated to act in a socially responsive manner to their global customers not only to fulfill their ethical obligations as a social entity but also due to the marketing and financial benefits resulting from consumer responses to CSR initiatives. Therefore, many retailers develop or participate in CSR activities and hope their actions can be recognized by others. Further, CSR activities are more likely to be perceived and accepted by consumers who show ethical purchasing behavior while shopping. Ethical purchasing behavior or socially responsible purchasing behavior is formed by their beliefs and norms which are influenced significantly by the culture they belong to. This study examined the differences between two countries with opposite cultures (i.e., the U.S. and South Korea) by considering the drivers (i.e., perceived consumer effectiveness, awareness, collectivism) and a consequence (i.e., satisfaction) of ethical purchase behavior. The findings suggested that perceived consumer effectiveness and awareness are important drivers to generate consumers’ commitment to companies’ CSR initiatives in general and the effectiveness is stronger in Korea than in United States. Implications and limitations were discussed.
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Introduction

Retailers and companies increasingly employ corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a global management strategy. These organizations are motivated to act in a socially responsive manner to their global customers not only to fulfill their ethical obligations as a social entity but also due to the marketing and financial benefits resulting from consumer responses to CSR initiatives (Maignan & Ferrell, 2004). Therefore, many retailers develop or participate in CSR activities and hope their actions can be recognized by others. Labeled socially responsible consumption, consumers are able to use their purchasing behavior to express their feelings of responsibility toward society in general. Defined as a purchase that takes into account ethical issues such as human rights, labor conditions, and environmental issues for example, socially responsible consumption is used by these consumers as a purchasing criteria (Doane, 2001; Ozkan, 2009). CSR activities are more likely to be perceived and accepted by consumers who show ethical purchasing behavior while shopping. Ethical purchasing behavior or socially responsible purchasing behavior is formed by their beliefs and norms which are influenced significantly by the culture they belong to. These consumers are aware of the effect that their consumption has on a local, national, and international level (McGregor, 1999), causing their decisions to be influenced by how their behavior influences themselves as well as society and the larger environment.

Often consumers exercise their ethical concerns by purchasing products for their positive qualities (e.g., green products) or by boycotting products for their negative qualities (e.g., not buying products made by children) (De Pelsmaker, Driesen, & Rayp, 2005). This purchasing behavior allows a consumer to reward a company’s CSR initiatives through the demonstration of support of their ethical initiatives. More than ever before, ethical and social issues have become mechanisms for purchasing behavior leading consumers to seek out opportunities to exhibit how much they care about the unfairness in the world. When this occurs, consumers may examine an organization’s environmental practices, labor conditions, fair trade standards, and philanthropic activities so that they can feel good about the purchasing decisions they make (Mohr, Webb, & Harris, 2001).

Today’s consumers are making purchasing decisions in a global market (Ozkan, 2009), but across the world people consume differently based on cultural variations. Most typically these differences are categorized within an individualism or collectivism context with these established differences affecting the way consumers re spond to sustainability efforts (Newell & Green, 1997). The very meaning of consumption has become more symbolic in this global marketplace as products have begun to serve as a form of communication. For example, in some cultures consumption means to “waste, squander, or destroy” (Ozkan, 2009, p. 949) associating consumer purchases with human and environmental destruction. Therefore cultural differences are more likely to affect a consumer’s purchasing behavior in relationship to an organization’s CSR initiatives (Newell & Green, 1997; Oliver & Lee, 2010) based on these cultural differences. This makes it critical for companies to understand consumer purchasing behavior within a cultural context (De Mooij & Hofstede, 2002) particularly from an individualism/collectivism construct (Hofstede, 2001).

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