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date: 25 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article surveys the potential and limits of consumers in demanding socially responsible behavior through their decisions at the checkout. Corporate responsibility (CR) has never been more prominent on the corporate agenda and primarily because the business case is perceived to be much stronger. This article takes a critical look at the role of consumers in corporate attention to CR. It gives illustrative examples of ‘ethical consumerism’, survey data, and a theoretical rationale that supports the general idea that consumers care about issues of corporate responsibility. It also examines various marketer initiatives that reflect a belief in ethical consumerism, from cause-related marketing to ethical branding. It then turns to more theoretical treatments and empirical research findings on, first, consumer support for pro-social corporate conduct (‘positive ethical consumerism’) and, second, consumer punishment of CR failings, most notably in consumer boycotts (‘negative ethical consumerism’).

Keywords: socially responsible behavior, corporate responsibility, ethical consumerism, survey data, empirical research findings

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