“We may claim to support ethical products, but for many consumers there is a huge gap between stated intent and what we buy,” says Nitika Garg, an associate professor at UNSW Business School.

She is the co-author of a UNSW Business School research paper which examined behavioural outcomes in ethical consumption, which found we buy the cheapest product, or the best presented, and not the one which fits our ethics. “We may argue the only way is ethics – but our wallet speaks louder.”

The research shows that if asked directly, most people will say they support the concept of ethical business and ethical products. But when it comes to supporting ethical products at the checkout, a large number of us fall short. Garg’s area of interest is consumer behaviour, and with her research colleagues – Rahul Govind, Jatinder Jit Singh and Shachi D’Silva – she sought to gain a better understanding of the ‘behavioural gap’ between what people say and what they do.

“Multiple surveys have shown that people want to reward ethical behaviour,” Garg says. “But when that comes to actual choice behaviour in the market, this is not being reflected.”

“When we have the opportunity to act on our convictions, many of us disregard our stated moral stance and go for the product that is available, attractively priced, or simply desirable. In most cases, the final choice is an unconscious one.”

Further details of the research are in the UNSW Business School publication BusinessThink.

For further comment contact Nitika Garg on 02 9385 3387 or n.garg@unsw.edu.au

Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887