Investigating the influence of religion, ethical ideologies and generational cohorts toward consumer ethics: which one matters?

Denni Arli (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia)
Andre Pekerti (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Publication date: 3 October 2016



In the debate whether ethics should be separated from religion or otherwise, few have investigated the impact of religious beliefs and ethical ideologies on consumer ethics. Thus, the purpose of this study to investigate the influence of consumers’ religion, moral philosophy and generational cohort on their perception toward various consumers’ ethical behavior practices.


The study uses sample from three different cohorts (Generation Y, Generation X and Baby boomers) in Australia. The final numbers of respondents are 251. Male and female respondents are almost equal in number (52 and 48 per cent, respectively). Most participants are single (56 per cent), and 24 per cent are married. The age cohorts are Gen-Y (70 per cent), Gen-X (16 per cent) and Baby boomers (14 per cent). In terms of religion, 46 per cent of the respondents were identified as Christian or Catholic, whereas 42 per cent reported having no religion.


The results show that religiosity had the strongest effect compared to moral ideologies and generation cohorts. It can be assumed that at least for religious consumers, when two ideas collide between religion and ethical ideologies, religious principles may supersede ethical ideologies. The study offers several implications for marketers, educators and public policy makers.

Research limitations/implications

The current study has several limitations, especially the use of convenience sampling that may limit the generalizability of the findings. Consumers in Australia may behave differently from general consumers or other cohorts with regard to their ethical judgments.


This is one of the first few studies exploring consumer ethics in Australia. We may conclude that in some ethical situations, religion will supersede ethical ideologies. Accordingly, it is important not to remove religion from ethics education, especially for religious consumers.



Arli, D. and Pekerti, A. (2016), "Investigating the influence of religion, ethical ideologies and generational cohorts toward consumer ethics: which one matters?", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 770-785.

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