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EMAC 2022 Annual

Fair trade in unfair times - Do we only buy ethically when we are feeling well?

Published: May 24, 2022


Philipp Dieckmann, RWTH Aachen University; Moritz J├Ârling, EMLYON Business School; Daniel Wentzel, Chair of Marketing, RWTH Aachen University


In this paper, we investigate how stress influences ethical consumption. Drawing on literature regarding stress responses and cognitive load, we argue that stress leads to an increase in selfishness, which in turn lowers the preference for ethically produced products. We tested this proposed mediation model in two studies. First, we collected panel data from India during two phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, we conducted an online experiment, in which we manipulated stress for the participants. Results from both studies provided support for our proposed model. The more individuals feel stressed the lower their tendency for ethical consumption. The effect was mediated by selfishness in the panel data. Recommendations for designing the shopping experience and public policy are made.