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Selecting decision-relevant ethical product attributes for grocery shopping

Vüsal Hasanzade (University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany)
Victoria-Sophie Osburg (University of Hull, Hull, UK)
Waldemar Toporowski (University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 8 February 2018

Issue publication date: 26 March 2018




Despite the existence of various approaches for promoting ethical consumption, it remains a challenge to determine which ethical product features are actually decision relevant for consumers. Based on the assumption that values influence behavior across a range of situations, the purpose of this paper is to explore consumers preferences for product information items that address underlying motivators (i.e. concerns about the environment, animal welfare, other humans, price). Information preferences are also determined for different consumer segments separately, enabling one to target consumer groups with specific decision-relevant information.


A German online survey was conducted with mainly young consumers. The survey used a choice-based conjoint analysis (CBCA) with the relevant product information items chosen based on an analysis of the attributes of dairy products and the guidelines for eco- and fair trade labels. The identified items were assigned to the ethical criteria of animal welfare, environmental protection, and labor and human rights. These criteria, along with price and country of origin, represent the attributes of the CBCA.


The results indicate that information about animal welfare increases consumer choice the most, followed by information about labor and human rights, and environmental protection. Three identified segments differ with respect to their decision-relevant product information: ethically motivated consumers (53.8 percent), price oriented consumers (12 percent), and price-quality oriented consumers (34.2 percent).


This study contributes to a better understanding of how ethical product information can most effectively be communicated to consumers, particularly for dairy products. The results highlight the need to carefully select ethical product information based on the target consumer segment in order to promote ethical consumption.



Hasanzade, V., Osburg, V.-S. and Toporowski, W. (2018), "Selecting decision-relevant ethical product attributes for grocery shopping", Management Decision, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 591-609.



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