Shopping for a Cause: Altruism Sells this Season
Friday, December 4, 2015
The holidays bring many motivations to buy, buy, buy. Beyond the sale prices and must-have items is something greater for consumers to consider, says Saint Joseph’s University sociologist Keith Brown, Ph.D., the author of Buying into Fair Trade: Culture, Morality and Consumption (NYU Press, 2013).
“Many consumers sincerely want to make a difference in the world through shopping,” he says. “Consumers like to give gifts that have a story about where the product came from, who made it and how the producer benefitted by selling the object.”
Conversely, Brown says that the recipients often feel good, too. “It’s a double gift."
Brown points to a number of motivators for consumers who look for pink ribbon or sustainable products, but also notes that keeping up appearances can play a role.
“Maybe most importantly, consumers want to be viewed as socially conscious. Objects that clearly signify that a person has donated to charity help mark the consumer as altruistic,” he says.
So, in this season of giving, how big of a role will altruism play in holiday shopping?
“There has been a decidedly ‘ethical turn’ in the market for at least the last decade, and we continue to see an increasing number of companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to a charitable or ethical cause,” Brown explains.
And an increasing number of consumers from all socio-economic segments are looking to pay it forward, Brown says.
"They’re looking for ‘Made in America,’ ‘Fair Trade,’ or ‘Eco-friendly.’ They want to add a socially responsible dimension to their gift-giving,” he adds.