Will you pay more for a sweater if you know it was made under ‘decent’ labour practices?
Osgoode Hall Law School Ph.D Candidate Vanisha Sukdeo tells me about a recent study by Professor June Cotte at Western that examined studies that have looked at the extent to which consumers will pay a premium for socially responsible goods. According to Vanisha,
This report canvasses a sample of the existing studies that have been conducted on ethical consumerism, more specifically whether consumers are willing to pay a premium for socially responsible products. The findings reveal that consumers are willing to pay an average of 10 per cent premium for sustainable goods and services.
Here is the full study. It’s a very thorough survey of the literature and studies on this issue, which will certainly prove useful for my own research into corporate social responsibility. It’s difficult to measure the effects of ‘social responsibility’ on consumer choice for a number of reasons, including the fact that people will often say they will reward good employers, but then buy the cheaper sweatshop-made sweater when they actually get to the store and no one is watching. In other words, people’s words are not always backed up by their actions.
And then there is the problem of defining what we mean by socially responsible, particularly in the area of labour practices. How does a consumer know if the labour practices were decent? Do we trust what we read on the label? If not, how does the consumer sort out competing claims about the quality of labour practices? These are difficult questions that have spawned an entire industry over the past 20 years dedicated to codes of conduct, monitoring, and reporting.
What about you? Will you pay more if a product has a label or logo on it that purports to testify that workers making the item were treated in accordance with local employment laws, or treated ‘decently’, or ‘fairly”? Do you think consumers care about this stuff, or do they just buy what they want and the best price they can find?
Thanks for pointing out the study, Vanisha.