3. The responsible consumer and demographical

Full Title
Consumers’ responsible attitude: discovering the role of demographical characteristics
1. Introduction
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has assumed increasing importance in recent years both as part
of the theoretical constructs developed by scholars in the field and as an innovative way of working in
firms (Klein and Dawar, 2004; Mele et al. 2006; Waddock and Smith, 2000). A variety of firms have
implemented practices which develop a positive relationship with society (Whitehouse, 2006), leading
to the growing affirmation of CSR.
The commitment of firms to CSR is motivated by both moral and economic concerns (Michael, 2003),
although it is worth noting that economic motivation has been more effective in encouraging businesses
to engage with social and environmental issues (De la Cuesta and Valor, 2004; European Commission,
2002, 2006). Early research on economic reasons focused on measuring the potential outcome of
responsible business conduct and the relationship of that behaviour to economic performance
(Moskowitz, 1972; Vance, 1975; Bucholz, 1978; Aupperle et al. 1985). Subsequently, other studies
addressed the implications of CSR for firms, focusing on the ways in which it can be deployed in the
company (Lewin et al. 1995; Clarkson, 1995; Joyner and Payne, 2002) and the benefits obtained in
terms of attractiveness and retention of workers (Greening and Turban, 2000; Backhaus et al. 2002).
Other attempts to study the relationship between CSR and performance have investigated the influence
that CSR has on consumer choices and behaviours (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Lafferty and Goldsmith,
1999; Handelman and Arnold, 1999; Maignan et al. 1999; Maignan and Ferrell, 2001; Vogel, 2005).
The idea that CSR can foster a positive perception on the part of customers is therefore the economic
basis of a relationship between the adoption of responsible practices and consumer willingness to
reward responsible firms through their purchase behaviour (Creyer and Ross, 1997; Ellen et al. 2000;
Nelson, 2004; Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001; Valor, 2008). CSR has been acknowledged to have a
positive influence on consumers, generating a better attitude towards products and firms (e. g.
Maignan, 2001; Mohr et al. 2001), but there is a general lack of information on consumers who reward
CSR efforts.
The present study addresses this lack of data by investigating the relationship between demographical
characteristics and Responsible Attitude - a consumer’s propensity to pay attention to social and
environmental dimensions in their consumption. Although using demographics implies a tacit
acceptance of their importance in determining behaviour, consumer demographics are relatively
uncomplicated, represent valid predictors of consumer behaviour and are of interest to both marketing
studies and company management (Pol, 1986).
This article provides two contributions to our understanding of social and environmental consumers.
The first is the development of a Responsible Attitude scale, a single measure to evaluate the attention
given by consumers to both social and environmental concerns in their purchasing behaviour. This
measure allows us to move from the notion of an ethical consumer, interested exclusively in social
issues, to the notion of a responsible consumer, a person who integrates both social and environmental
concerns in a unique construct (Harper and Makatouni, 2002). Secondly, we have developed and tested
five hypotheses concerning the realtionship between demographics and Responsible Attitude on a
sample of 5,098 Italian consumers. This research is the first large-scale analysis conducted in Italy on
these issues. Given that Italian society is largely homogeneous in terms of shared culture and religion,
it is of especial interest in the study of the relationship between demographics and responsible attitude
(Vitell, 2003, Honkanen et al. 2006). This fact allows us to avoid the problem of the relationship
between different religious groups and Responsible Attitude, which can be a significant variable in
studies on demographics and consumer behaviour.
2. From the ethical to the responsible consumer
Interest in studying the social and environmental attitude of consumers as a way of developing a
company’s sales has fuelled a debate about ethical consumerism, a phenomenon of increasing
importance in business management (Devinney et al. 2006). This phenomenon is manifest in customers
who do not ask companies simply for quality products at low costs, but also expect them to correspond
to their personal values and contribute to community development (Handelman and Arnold, 1999).
Although the importance given by consumers to ethics is generally acknowledged, firms choose to
adopt CSR to capitalize on consumers’ willingness to prefer socially-oriented firms (Bhattacharya and
Sen, 2004; Harrison, 2003). The increasing importance of ethical consumption is confirmed by the
growing space it is given in both the press and academic journals (Crane and Matten, 2004). The
visibility of issues such as child labour in developing countries and the environmental impact of global
production (and consumption) seem to influence consumer purchasing decisions around the world to an
ever-increasing extent (Auger et al. 2003; Creyer and Ross, 1997; Elliott and Freeman, 2001).
Over the years, the concept of ethical consumer has evolved from a notion encompassing purely social
issues to one embracing both social and environmental concerns (Newholm and Shaw, 2007). An initial
definition was suggested by Webster Jr. (1975), who described the ethical consumer as “a consumer
who takes into account the public consequences of his or her private consumption or who attempts to
use his or her purchasing power to bring about social change” (p. 188). Indeed, during the second half
of the 1980s, consumers were hit by environmental crises, leading to a growing emphasis on the
environmental effects associated with consumption and the subsequent affirmation of the concept of
“green consumer”. The number of green consumers gradually increased during the 1990s (Fuller,
1999), resulting in a proliferation of research on this segment of the market (Menon and Menon, 1997;
Peattie, 1995; Prothero, 1990; Schlegelmilch et al. 1996; Vandermerwe and Oliffe, 1990).
The concept of ethical consumer has moved beyond its initial conception towards identifying
consumers who pay attention to social issues, but who are also interested in the environmental
implications of their purchasing processes. Engel and Blackwell (1982) expanded the concept by
extending the focus from social issues to a broader ethical orientation, including issues relating to the
environment. They portrayed ethical consumers as “those persons who are concerned not only with
their own personal satisfactions, but also with the same consideration of the social and environmental
well-being of others” (p. 610). The convergence of social and environmental concerns in a unique
construct was recognised by Roberts (1996, p. 140), who defined the ethical consumer as “one who
purchases products and services perceived to have positive (or less negative) influence on the
environment or who patronizes related businesses that attempt to effect positive social change”. In the
same vein, Strong (1996) also claimed the existence of a link between the environmental and social
aspects, and noted how the focus on the environment has gradually become an ethical concern among
consumers, and social and environmental issues are often simultaneous considerations. Similarly, Shaw
and Newholm (2002, p. 168) argued that “the inextricable link between consumption and ethical
problems, such as environmental degeneration and fairness in world trade, has since resulted in the
emergence of a group of consumers commonly referred to as ethical consumers”.
To avoid confusion deriving from different definitions, in this article we have decided to adopt the term
"Responsible Consumer". Our intention is to study consumers who are concerned with both the social
and environmental aspects of their consumption processes, and to consider these two variables as part
of the consumer’s intention to accept the responsibility related to their consumption. We thus posit that
Responsible Consumers are characterised by a Responsible Attitude that leads them to become
interested in the wider implications of consumption processes. This attitude manifests itself, firstly, in
consumer commitment to gather the information necessary to evaluate the social and environmental
aspects of their consumption and, secondly, in attention to these issues in their consumption choices.
2. 1 Responsible Attitude and information
Studies of consumer knowledge of the information provided by companies on goods/services suggest
that, in general, consumers do not know the environmental and social characteristics of the majority of
goods/services they consume (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2004; Elliott and Freeman, 2001). This is due to
the fact that most of them do not have direct information concerning the social and environmental
aspects of goods/services, thus indicating the existence of a potential, latent demand of responsible
consumer (Pedersen and Neergaard, 2006).
As posited above, a Responsible Attitude leads to a greater awareness of available information on the
social and environmental aspects related to purchase decisions. The early development of the concept
of ethical consumption focused on the effects determined by the information related to products or their
use, as evidenced by the definitions above.
The relevance of information in the assessment of Responsible Attitude is confirmed by studies (e. g.
Simon, 1995) which suggest that when consumers receive more information about social and
environmental responsibility, they pay more attention to the selection of goods/services in their
purchasing processes. Moreover, other studies (Herr et al. 1991; Amine, 1996) have suggested that
negative information attracts more consumer attention than positive information, and that it is therefore
easier to support the idea of consumer boycotts than that of rewarding behaviour.
A deeper Responsible Attitude allows the consumer to evaluate the information available, even if it is
scarce. Consumer interest in gathering information is a prerequisite of a consumer’s decision to
purchase in a responsible way. The consumer with a responsible attitude freely takes note of
information regarding the factors related to certain social issues (Doane, 2001), including
environmental issues and social justice in their decisions to purchase (Nicholls, 2002).
2. 2 Responsible Attitude and decision-making
A Responsible Attitude in consumers leads them to evaluate information about goods/services and
firms with regard to their personal beliefs and choose to include such matters as labour standards,
human rights, health-related issues, and, of course, environmental issues among the criteria that govern
the process of their purchasing decisions (Strong, 1996; Shaw and Shiu, 2002, 2003; Carey et al.,
Once consumers defined by a Responsible Attitude have arrived at a judgment on either goods/services
or businesses, their buying behaviour will be influenced by it. This influence can manifest itself in the
exercise of a power of legitimacy and sanction in their consumption processes (Valor, 2008).
The first is the choice to support the purchase of goods/services that meet specifications set by personal
and moral beliefs (e. g. not being manufactured by children or not tested on animals). In this regard,
research has supported the existence of a willingness among consumers to pay higher prices for goods
or services from companies considered reliable (Creyer and Ross, 1997). Other early studies showed
that consumers were willing to change brands of goods/services purchased to encourage companies that
link the purchase of their goods/services to the support of social causes (Smith and Alcorn, 1991). In
some cases researchers have tried to estimate the overall willingness of consumers to pay for
goods/services of an ethical nature (De Pelsmacker et al. 2005).
The second is the decision to penalize, i. e. not buy goods/services that do not meet these criteria or that
are marketed by companies that do not respect moral values. In this case, the decision not to purchase
goods/services from companies judged to be irresponsible is a signal that consumers increasingly take
social and environmental issues into account in their purchasing decisions (Nebenzahl et al. 2001).
Such customers thus play an important role in furthering the development of CSR among firms who do
so to improve their reputation. Examples of sanctioning behaviours are the campaigns against Nike
related to abuse of workers, and the Nestlé infant milk scandal (Auger et al. 2000; Carrigan and Attalla,
2001; Creyer and Ross, 1997; Shaw and Clarke, 1999; Strong, 1996).
Responsible Attitudes influence consumers’ purchasing patterns, as tested by various models which
evaluate consumer behaviour (Ferrell and Gresham, 1985, Hunt and Vitell, 1993; Vitell et al. 2001).
However, these elements are generally considered insufficient to predict consumer behaviour (CobbWalgren and Ruble, 1995). The dimension of responsibility does not appear to be the dominant criteria
of purchasing decisions, and traditional criteria such as convenience, price, quality and familiarity with
the brand seem to remain the most important (Boulstridge and Carrigan, 2000; Carrigan and Attalla,
2001; Norberg, 2000; Roberts, 1996; Tallontire et al. 2001).
Research has also been carried out on the relationship between Responsible Attitude and consumer
behaviour. From a theoretical point of view, Maignan and Ferrell (2001) placed the dimension of
responsibility among the positive influences that are taken into account by consumers in their process
of evaluating products and businesses. This view has already been verified empirically by Brown and
Dacin (1997) who noted that CSR affects the evaluation of products and overall company image. Sen
and Bhattacharya (2001) highlighted how the association of a product to a social cause is moderated by
the support that consumers intend to give to these social causes (De los Salmones et al., 2005). Bjorner
et al. (2004) addressed the issue by presenting results limited to specific market areas (e. g. limited
distribution to special stores, lack of consumer information) and results of the different terms of
purchase that consumers might encounter.
Previous studies that have tested the importance of Responsible Attitude as a criterion of choice are in
fact mostly experimental in nature (e. g. see Berens et al., 2005; Handelmann and Arnold, 1999; Sen
and Bhattacharya, 2001). Such experiments may produce significantly different results from those
observed in real settings where products and brands are familiar. This is, firstly, because CSR practices
are often not known and, secondly, because in reality the factors at play in the purchasing process are
more complex and more numerous than these experimental studies have shown (Mohr et al. 2001).
More recently, researchers have conducted field experiments in an attempt to analyze the gap.
Anderson and Hanson (2004) conducted an experiment in two outlets of household objects in Oregon
where "eco-labelled" and "unlabelled" products were sold side by side. They show how the labelled
versions recorded 37% of total sales with a price premium of 2%. Similarly, Kimeldorf et al. (2006)
used a "good working conditions" label to differentiate between their equivalent sports socks in a store
in Michigan. They showed that, despite a price premium of 40%, about a quarter of total sales were of
products with eco-labelling, demonstrating how consumers are sensitive to price changes.
Although scientists are not able to give clear indications of how knowledge of CSR factors affect actual
purchasing decisions (Shaw et al. 2005), it is interesting to note that in recent years an increasing
number of companies have started to highlight indications on their products regarding the
environmental and/or “fair” conditions (e. g. no child labour or no exploitation of agricultural workers)
under which they were produced. Similarly, other research has noted a growing focus among marketing
managers on social and environmental dimensions and a greater attention to such dimensions in the
marketing mix they adopt (Clark, 1990; Al-Khatib et al. 1997; Rawwas et al. 1994).
3. The responsible consumer and demographical characteristics
The possible relationship between demographic characteristics and a consumer’s responsible attitude
has been the object of studies over the last forty years. Anderson and Cunningham (1972) first
hypothesised the existence of a link between demographic characteristics and a consumer’s sense of
responsibility. Later, Hunt and Vitell (1986) pointed out that personal characteristics determine the
nature of an individual’s social decisions. This particular contribution gave impetus to the present study
of socio-demographic characteristics of responsible attitude in order to understand responsible
Although some studies have pointed out that there is a relationship between demographic and social
and/or environmental orientation, these dimensions also seem to be directly connected to a Responsible
Attitude. Roberts (1995), in particular, concludes that demographic characteristics are significant in
identifying responsible consumption, emphasizing characteristics such as age, gender and level of
education. In the following section we summarize previous contributions to the understanding of the
individual socio-demographic characteristics of consumers and propose research hypotheses we test
and report on in the second half of the paper.
3. 1. Gender
The influence of gender on Responsible Attitude has been examined in studies such as Ford and
Richardson (1994). Studies in this field have shown that women tend to have a greater propensity to
consider social and environmental issues than men (e. g. Ferrell and Skinner, 1988; Jones and Gautschi,
1988; Rüegger and King, 1992; Whipple and Swords, 1992).
Initial studies helped to evaluate the orientation differences between men and women by analysing the
behaviour of students or managers. Among others, Beltramini et al. (1984) found that female students
are more interested in social issues than men. Chonko and Hunt (1985) reported that women managers
are more oriented towards ethical issues than men, and Ferrell and Skinner (1988) found the same
result among researchers. Jones and Gautschi (1988) also pointed out that women are less loyal to their
company if it demonstrates dubious social and/or environmental behaviour. Similarly Whipple and
Swords (1992) found that women are more critical in terms of ethics than their male counterparts.
Rawwas and Isakson (2000) revealed how gender tends to explain unethical behaviour during student
This difference may be justified by differing conceptions of morality. While men are more likely to
conceive of morality as essentially consisting of obligations and rights and motivated by an attempt to
ensure fairness and impartiality, women seem to see morality as a necessary requirement to meet the
needs of others (Flanagan and Jackson, 1987). This vision is better explained by Callahan (1990) who
argues that men are characterised by a principle of impartial justice through rules and laws, while
women believe that morality is more related to aspects of the concept and has to do with human
interpersonal needs.
The study of the application of these differences in consumption has revealed some interesting facts.
While some empirical studies have shown that female consumers care more about social and
environmental dimensions than men (Arlow, 1991; Crow et al., 1991; Deshpande, 1997), others have
found small or insignificant differences (Kidwell et al. 1987; Trevino, 1992). Derry (1987, 1989)
suggested that gender differences found in studies tend to be context-specific. This hypothesis was
partially supported by Smith and Oakley (1997), who found that there were no differences in the
evaluation of unethical behaviour in breach of the law, even though women seemed to have a higher
ethical standard than men. Although, in that particular study, responsible consumers were in most cases
women, other studies conclude that ethical behaviour in the process of purchase is not influenced by
gender (Sikula and Costa, 1994; Tsalikis and Ortiz-Buonafina, 1990). In line with the hypothesis of a
different conception of morality among women and men in the present research, the first hypothesis we
tested was:
Hypothesis 1: On average, women have a more Responsible Attitude than men.
3. 2. Age
The age of consumers can influence a Responsible Attitude. This influence may be motivated by two
distinct factors: firstly, the development of personal maturity over time (Stead et al. 1990), in that,
presumably, as people age, they become increasingly aware of the importance of controlling their
behaviour, and secondly, due to the presence of certain factors in a particular social and cultural
environment which are reflected in the person (Chiu et al. 1998). Some researchers found that it was
not possible to detect significant differences in the attitude of ethics as a function of age (Hetherington
and Feldman, 1964; Lane and Schaupp, 1989). However, other empirical studies indicate age as
positively associated with ethical attitude, beliefs and life-style (Emerson and Conroy, 2004;
Deshpande, 1997).
Regarding the influence of age on Responsible Attitude, Kohlberg (1984) showed that people of legal
age attribute more importance to social and environmental issues than younger people. Subsequent
research has also supported this assertion, stressing that older individuals are on average more ethical
than younger ones. For example, Serwinek (1992) found that workers of legal age have a more rigorous
interpretation of ethical standards. Rüegger and King (1992) established that older students tend to be
more ethical than younger ones. In addition, Rawwas and Singhapakdi (1998) have shown how
individuals tend to be more ethical as they age. The greater lack of attention paid to ethical aspects by
young people is explained by their greater attention to more material aspects (Chiu et al. 1998). In the
light of this literature we verified the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2: The age of consumers has a positive relation with Responsible Attitude.
3. 3. Educational level
Researchers have studied level of education as a further significant marker of Responsible Attitude.
While some studies have failed to identify a relationship between the level of education and responsible
consumption (e. g. Kidwell et al. 1987; Serwinek, 1992; Laczniak and Inderrieden, 1987, Stevens et al.
2005), in general, it has been established that subjects with higher levels of education, regardless of
curriculum, are more sensitive to social and environmental dimensions (e. g. Goolsby and Hunt, 1992).
For example, Browning and Zabriskie (1983) showed that purchase managers who have studied for a
greater length of time judge gifts and favours as unethical more often than managers who have studied
less. This is also in line with Kohlberg (1984), who found that such managers manifest a greater
capacity to take appropriate responsible decisions even in complex situations. This is supported by the
results obtained by Rest and Narvaez (1994), who found that individuals with a higher level of
education seem to have sensitivity to ethics. In the same way, McNeel (1986) showed that attending
graduate school is associated with a higher attention to social and environmental dimensions.
There are also a number of elements that conflict with the hypothesis of a relationship between the two
factors. Shaub (1994) found that the effects of education on students’ moral reasoning were
insignificant. Similarly, Terpstra et al. (1993) reached no clear results when analyzing the influence of
years of study on ethical orientation in consumers, and Woodbine (2004) showed that level of
education has a negative effect on consumer responsibility. Despite these contradictory studies, the
present research has tested a hypothesis based on cultural improvement due to education:
Hypothesis 3:Level of education has a positive relationship with Responsible Attitude.
3. 4. Income
Research conducted on the socio-demographic characteristics of consumers has also included
information about income. On a sample of consumers, Anderson and Cunningham (1972) and
subsequently Dickson (2001) found that the income level of consumers appears to be irrelevant to the
understanding of Responsible Attitude. In contrast, other studies pointed out that there was a positive
relationship between the level of income of individuals and their propensity for ethical behaviour.
Carrigan and Attalla (2001) and Maignan and Ferrell (2001) show that a large majority of subjects with
an above-average level of income declared attention to the ethics of consumption. Given the belief that
the level of income includes a greater willingness among consumers to pay a personal financial
sacrifice in order to incorporate a social and environmental dimension in their processes of
consumption, we tested the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 4: The level of income has a positive relationship with Responsible Attitude.
3. 5. Geographical area
Belonging to different cultures has been documented as a major variable of influence on ethical
decisions (Rawwas, 2001; Rawwas et al., 2005). The ethics of consumers has been shown to vary from
one geographical region to another due to the historical patterns of behaviour and different concepts of
norms and values (Babakus et al. 2004). This has been studied previously in works generally focused
on students or groups from different cultures, such as in the work of Vitell and Paolillo (2004) and
Ahmed et al. (2003). Other studies, such as Maignan (2001) have focused more on the concept of CSR
to examine the ethical differences in economic, legal and philanthropic matters between students of
different cultural strains - the USA and Hong Kong in the first case and the U. S. and Europe in the
second. Individuals that live in a geographical area where there are many firms are found to be more
conscious of the social and environmental impacts of business. These individuals are more aware of
manufacturing processes and tend to pay greater attention to responsibility in the consumer process.
Based on the idea that living in a geographical area with a high number of firms could generate a
certain kind of business culture, in the present study we tested the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 5: Living in a highly industrialised area has a positive relationship with Responsible
4. Methodology
4. 1. Participants and procedure
The research presented in this paper is based on a sample of Italian consumers. During the summer of
2011 a telephone survey was conducted on a sample of 12,000 Italian residents aged over 14. The aim
of the survey was to determine how Italian consumers view a number of important issues concerning
the social and environmental dimensions of consumerism. The questionnaire method was selected as
the aim of the study was to obtain insight into consumer attitudes towards social and environmental
aspects of consumerism processes. Participants were part of the AC Nielsen Home Scan Panel, a
monitoring panel of consumerism that involves people randomly chosen throughout the country and
composed proportionally to population density.
The questionnaire was divided into two parts of structured, closed questions. The first measured the
declaration of behaviour towards information about social and environmental characteristics of the
product or responsible efforts on the part of firms. The second part collected data about the declared
behaviour of consumers towards products whose profits are given to social causes or who have a strong
environmental commitment, and towards firms they judge to be responsible or not responsible. The
response rate was 42. 5% (n=5. 098).
By using the data of the Nielsen Home Scan Panel, we accessed the demographic characteristics of
consumers, both respondent and non-respondents. This data was used to carry out a T-test to examine
the non-participation bias and, in each case, the results were not significant and confirm the absence of
bias in the sampling process. The final sample of the consumers who took part in the research
represents the demographic distribution of the entire population (Istat, 2009).
4. 2. Demographical measures
In this paragraph we present all but one of the measures used to define the demographical profile of
each consumer. Gender is an exception as it is a clear two-group categorical variable.
Age. The consumers were coded in seven different groups on the basis of age. The first group is
composed of consumers between 14 and 18 years of age. The other groups are based on a scale that
includes five different groups between 24 and 64, and a residual group including consumers over 65.
Educational level. The educational level of consumers was measured according to the level of
qualifications they had achieved. The first group consists of the minimum legal level of education in
Italy, which is a total of nine years. The second level is High School, indicating a qualification
achieved five years after the minimum level. The third level is Graduate, which includes all those with
a bachelor’s degree or equivalent level of higher education.
Income. To estimate income we divided consumers into four groups according to the distribution of
their level of annual incomes. In the low-income group we included those with a monthly income in the
first quartile of distribution, in the low-medium income group, consumers in the second quartile, in the
medium-high those in the third quartile and in the high income group those in the fourth quartile.
Geographical area. Different geographical areas in Italy present significant disparities in economic and
business contexts. We observed these differences, considering geographical areas as a demographical
variable that could be related to Responsible Attitude. It is widely recognised that Northern Italy has a
higher density of business than Southern Italy, and we were able to observe the degree of industrial
growth moving from the south to the north (ISTAT, 2001). Accordingly, we divided our consumers
into four groups representing the geographical area they inhabit: north-east; north-west; centre and
south. Consumers living in northern Italy were expected to have a more sophisticated business culture
than those living in the south.
4. 3. Analysis
The statistical analyses were carried out using SPSS 18. 00 and AMOS, and are divided into two
consecutive steps. First, using exploratory factor analysis of the data collected by the first and second
part of the questionnaire, a scale of Responsible Attitude was constructed. We evaluated the scale for
reliability and then conducted a confirmatory factor analysis to assess validity (Churchill, 1979,
Mentzer and Flint, 1997). Subsequently, the various hypotheses were validated, analysing the
significance of the mean in Responsible Attitude (an independent variable) among different
demographical groups identified by the variables illustrated above (dependent variables).
Responsible attitude scale development
The goal of our first step in the analysis was to measure the level of Responsible Attitude claimed by
each of the consumers surveyed. An exploratory factor analysis was applied using Keiser’s criterion
and experimenting with different numbers of factors to find a satisfactory solution (Tabachnick and
Fidell, 2008). The variables included in the factor analysis referred to the questions submitted to the
consumers through the above-mentioned telephone survey, and was developed on the basis of literature
presented in the section above.
Running the factor analysis, we first checked for multicollinarity among variables, looking at the
determinant of the correlation matrix (0. 84) to ensure that it was greater than the generally accepted
value of 0. 000001. We also checked for the Kaiser, Mayer and Olkin (0. 774) measure to evaluate the
adequacy of the sampling and ensure we had a distinct and reliable factor. We conducted Bartlett’s test
of sphericity to check the existence of relations between the variables we included in the analysis (p<0.
05). We verified whether the factor analysis would have been better with two or more factors, and the
analysis of eigenvalue plot confirmed that the best option was to have only one component. This choice
was also confirmed by the analysis of total variance that showed an eigenvalue of the second
component that was less than one. Cronbach’s α was used as the measure of reliability of the
responsible attitude scale, with a result of 0. 843. We conclude, therefore, that the Responsible Attitude
scale shows adequate reliability.
The assessment of validity of the scale was produced using a confirmatory factor model with maximum
likelihood estimation. The final model displays acceptably fit of indices (χ2=123. 24 (15), p=. 002;
GFI=. 91; CFI=. 98; RSMEA=0. 07), which meet the recommended levels for a model with a good fit
(Hair et al. 2006). This indicates that the developed responsible attitude scale is valid.
Text of hypothesis
In the second phase of the analysis, the various hypotheses stated above were validated. Before starting
the analysis we verified the existence of a correlation between the demographical variables. A
Pearson’s Chi Square test was conducted that revealed only a statistically significant relation between
geographical areas and income level with a value of 2. 465 at a statistical significance of 0. 033.
To test the difference in Responsible Attitude mean between the various demographical characteristics
collected, we used T-tests and one-way ANOVA tests. T-tests were used to analyze differences in
gender, because of the two levels of this demographic category. ANOVA was conducted to explore the
impact of age, income, geographical area and city dimension level on the CSR orientations as measured
by the factor analysis. As explained above, the subjects were divided into seven age groups, four
geographical area groups, four city dimension groups and four income-level groups. For each variable,
Levene’s test for the homogeneity of variances was carried out. The results of this test were of no
significance (less than 0. 05) for all the variables analysed.
To evaluate the mean differences between groups we used the Tukey USD test to make a post-hoc
comparison, and also calculated the effect of size with the eta-squared statistic (η2). Since the sample is
sufficiently large (n=5,098), fairly small differences can become statistically significant, even if the
difference between groups is smaller than the usual value accepted. Consequently, we could consider
the effect to be large if the eta-squared was more than 0. 02 (Cohen, 1988).
5. Results
Table 1 presents the results of the factor analysis, reporting the loading factors. A logical analysis of
the loading factor and value shows that the factor identified is the Responsible Attitude of the
consumers we surveyed. The loading factor includes both the orientation of consumers towards social
and environmental information and the inclusion of these dimensions in the declared decision-making
[Table 1 about here]
Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics of Responsible Attitude conditioned to the demographical
variables, and the result of the test conducted. As observed, the table shows how a difference in
Responsible Attitude is due to the demographical characteristics of the customers analysed.
[Table 2 about here]
Hypothesis 1 predicted that women would have a more Responsible Attitude than men. An
independent-sample T-test was conducted to compare Responsible Attitude in men and women, and, in
fact, there was no highly significant difference in scores for men (M=0. 041; SD=0. 310) and women
(M=0. 058; SD=0. 302) t (5. 098)=1. 907, p=0. 057 (two-tailed). The size of the differences in the
means (mean difference=0. 016, 95% CI: -0. 0046 to 0. 033) was small (η2=0. 004). The first
hypothesis is not statistically verified, so it can be observed that men and women have a similar score
in Responsible Attitude. Gender is thus not a demographical characteristic that influences the
Responsible Attitude of consumers in any significant way.
Hypothesis 2 predicted that Responsible Attitude is positively related to the age of consumers. Support
for this is seen in Table 2, which shows a statistically significant difference at the p<0. 05 level in
Responsible Attitude of the 7 groups analysed: F(113, 89, 405, 787, 426, 408, 377)=38. 696, p=0. 000.
The effect size, calculated using eta-squared, is significant if related to the number of people included
in the data analysis (η2=0. 043).
[Table 3 about here]
Table 3 presents the results of post-hoc comparisons using the Tukey HSD test. It indicates that the
mean score of consumers aged between 14-18 (M=-0. 192; SD=0. 280) and between 19 and 25 (M=-0.
080; SD=0. 325) are significantly different from all other groups. The 25-34 group (M=0. 029; SD=0.
307) is statistically different from all but the over-65 group (M=0. 037; SD=0. 310). The 35-44 (M=0.
074; SD=0. 294), 45-54 (M=0. 101 SD=0. 293) and 55-64 (M=0. 075; SD=0. 296) groups are not
statistically different among themselves, but they differ from the group of over-65s (M=0. 037; SD=0.
310) and from the three groups under 34. Thus three distinct groups of consumers based on age
emerge: consumers under the age of 34, characterised by negative or close to zero Responsible
Attitude; a second group, composed by consumers between 35 and 64, which has the highest degree of
Responsible Attitude; and finally a group of over 65 in which this attitude decreases.
Hypothesis 3 predicted that the level of education produces a positive effect on the Responsible
Attitude of consumers. The comparison of Responsible Attitude at different educational levels shows a
statistically significant effect at p<0. 05 level for the three groups: F(1. 685, 698, 222)=2. 073, p=0.
003. The difference in mean scores between the groups is smaller than the value observed in age
differences (η2=0. 023). Table 4 presents the results of post-hoc test.
[Table 4 about here]
The post-hoc comparison using the Tukey HSD test indicated that the mean score for minimum level
education (M=0. 014, SD=0. 293) is statistically different from the group of graduates (M=0. 224;
SD=0. 308). The high school group (M=0. 085; SD=0. 308) did not differ significantly from either
group of minimum or maximum level of education.
Hypothesis 4 predicted that Responsible Attitude increases with a high level of monthly income. Table
2 shows that there was a statistically significant difference: F(459, 756, 917,473)=42. 304; p=0,000. In
this case the effect size is relevant because of the sample dimension (η2=0,024).
[Table 5 about here]
The post-hoc comparison based on Tukey HSD, presented in table 5, shows that the mean score was
significantly different among all the groups observed. The difference between the medium-high (M=0.
075; SD=0. 306) and high income group (M=0. 109; SD=0. 305) is significant at p=0. 022. All the
other differences are statistically significant at a level of p=0. 000, with strong evidence of differences
in Responsible Attitude between low income (M=-0. 036; SD=0. 292) and low-medium income (M=0.
027; SD=0. 301) and the two higher levels of income. The ANOVA tests show that an increase in
income level is related to a higher measure of Responsible Attitude of the consumers. We can conclude
that incomes are positively related to Responsible Attitude in consumerism.
The final hypothesis predicted the influence of the degree of industrialization as a driving force of
Responsible Attitude. We used the differences in Responsible Attitude between different industrial
areas in Italy to address this test hypothesis. The results of the ANOVA test score for the group based
on geographical area are: F(929, 418, 490, 768)=14. 547, p=0. 000. Despite reaching statistical
significance, the difference observed in the groups’ mean scores was very small as regards
geographical area (η2=0,008).
[Table 6 about here]
Table 6 presents the Tukey HSD conducted on geographical area. It shows that there is a statistically
significant difference only between people that live in the south of Italy (M=0. 007; SD=0. 300) and
people in the centre (M=0. 071; SD=0. 302), North-West (M=0. 080; SD=0. 306) and North-East
(M=0. 059; SD=0. 308). The North-East, North-West and Centre consumers did not show significant
differences at a level of p <0. 05.
6. Discussion
The research confirms that Responsible Attitude differs from one consumer to another, and it also
confirms that demographical characteristics could help to predict Responsible Attitude in consumers.
The results suggest that there is a relation between age and income of consumers and Responsible
Attitude. Younger consumers are minimally interested in social and environmental concerns while
making purchasing decisions. In particular, Italian consumers under 34 years of age are generally
uninterested or little interested in the social and environmental implications of their purchases.
Responsible Attitude is not a main feature of these groups of consumers, although some of these
consumers have shown a Responsible Attitude. Responsible Attitude increases in people over 35, and
the highest level was observed in those aged between 45 and 54. So the relationship between age and
Responsible Attitude is not perfectly linear. This finding could be explained by two contrasting
reasons. The first is based on the idea that Responsible Attitude is related to personal maturity. In this
case, responsibility in consumers is an expression of self-awareness and becomes part of one’s personal
values only when the person reaches complete maturity. This interpretation could justify the low level
of Responsible Attitude observed in the young, as an incompletely developed dimension, and suggests
that more time is necessary to reach maturity in this field. This could suggest that future responsible
consumers are likely to be at least as numerous as at present. A second interpretation of this result is
based on the potential difference in consumers based on generational changes. In this case, Responsible
Attitude is a function of the consumers’ generation, and is the result of the particular values shared by
people who have faced the same cultural changes in their lives. This interpretation implies that
consumers who are 45-54 years old today developed their Responsible Attitude in the past, particularly
during the 1970s or 1980s, when an intense debate on society and environmental issues took place. In
this case, we could interpret negative Responsible Attitude in younger consumers differently, in that
Responsible Attitude in consumers would be expected to decrease year on year when the current young
consumers become mature.
The research confirms that a second demographical characteristic positively related with Responsible
Attitude is consumers’ income, and indicates that responsible consumers would be expected to have
high spending power. This is basically due to the conviction that “responsible” products typically have
a higher price than traditional ones. The perception of a difference in price causes consumers with a
low incometo be less willing to pay a premium for products with a social or environmental value. This
financial burden produces greater scepticism in low-income consumers, and the Responsible Attitude
of this type of consumer is reduced.
The research also indicates a positive relationship between Responsible Attitude and educational level:
the awareness of social and environmental aspects in consumers is generally higher in graduates than in
consumers with lower levels of education. This difference could be due to the role that education has in
the reaching of personal maturity. The educational process is oriented both towards developing
professional competencies and skills and towards improving the ability to deal with complex problems
and take account of all possible implications. An attitude which considers the overall impact of a
purchase could increase an individual’s instinctive consideration of social and environmental issues..
The final demographical feature included in the analyses is geographical area, and this demonstrates
that people living in more industrialised areas tend to develop Responsible Attitudes. A person who
lives in a densely industrialised area would be expected to develop a higher business culture, and be
more aware of the impact of business on society and the environment. The important role played by
firms in industrialised zones leads consumers to expect those companies to contribute to the
development of society in significant ways. At the same time, consumers that live in industrialised
zones usually face environmental concerns such as pollution in their own lives. They are
understandably more interested in the environmental aspect of business as their lives are directly
affected by the environmental impacts of production systems.
In synthesis, the research presents a detailed demographical profile of consumers with a high
Responsible Attitude. These are individuals aged between 35 and 55, with a high level of education and
income, who usually live in more industrialised geographical zones.
7. Conclusion
Although our research was conducted on a large number of consumers, our findings are limited in
scope as we confined our study to Italy. In this respect, replication research in other countries would be
desirable to broaden understanding of the relationship between demographical characteristics and
Responsible Attitude in consumers.
One interesting variable not considered here, would be the effect on Responsible Attitude of cultural
backgrounds - specifically differing religious traditions.
Despite this limitation, the research contributes to the understanding of the demographical
characteristics of responsible consumers and fills a knowledge gap, providing useful results both from a
business and academic point of view.
The research improves understanding of consumers who have a Responsible Attitude, who are mainly
the final target of CSR initiatives and are probably interested in social and environmental products.
Starting from the hypothesis that CSR profitability is closely linked to the ability of consumers to affect
the success of responsible firms, the research states that approaching CSR as a competitive advantage
means targeting a specific demographical population. Given that the improvement in sales based on
CSR initiatives is influenced by the awareness of a customer’s tendency to award responsible firms,
managers who deal with CSR need to be aware of the demographical characteristics of the target
customers. The findings state that, although CSR is desirable from the point of view of society, when
aimed at end customers with demographical features that predict Responsible Attitudes, it is more
likely to generate better performance.
The research contributes to a better understanding of Responsible Attitude in all consumers and, more
generally, of responsible consumers themselves. Importantly, it has shown that the demographical
characteristics of consumers are predictors of Responsible Attitude in the consumer. Future research
could usefully investigate the cognitive gap between consumers and firms regarding their social and
environmental efforts. The alignment in cognition of responsible initiatives between consumers and
firms is interesting as it influences the effectiveness of CSR initiatives in improving sales and
generating a competitive edge. A second area of research into responsible consumers could address the
differences in Responsible Attitude in the consumer’s life. The main topic that could encourage
research in this field is the understanding of changeability or non-changeability of consumers’
Responsible Attitude in the different stages of the consumer’s life. Basically, the question is whether
Responsible Attitude is expected to change or if it is closely related to personal characteristics and
tends to be stable over time. This question is promising as a way of explaining the reduced Responsible
Attitude observed in younger consumers and could help us to understand whether Responsible Attitude
could become a characteristic of these consumers, or whether it is expected to decrease in the future
when the current younger generation become mature. The study of the efficiency of external initiatives
to encourage and improve Responsible Attitude in consumers is closely linked to differences in
Responsible Attitude during the consumers’ life. This issue is also important to firms that flank CSR
initiatives with programs aimed at educating their consumers to be conscious of social and
environmental issues related to their purchasing.
Given that firms increasingly seek to develop a competitive advantage using CSR initiatives and
advertising campaigns, it would be interesting if future research also analysed Responsible Attitude
using data on the effective purchasing choice of consumers. This research could address the issue of
how conventional purchase criteria (price, quality, convenience) factor into purchasing decisions
compared to Responsible Attitude. The core topic of this field of research is the determination of the
premium price that consumers are willing to pay to satisfy their Responsible Attitude towards the
purchasing of responsible products.
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Behavior toward
CSR information
Decision making
Table 1. The structure of the factor Responsible Attitude
1. I pay attention to information on social and environmental behavior
0. 516
of the firms when someone speaks about it
2. I know products and services that give a part of the price to social
0. 516
3. I don’t know firms that I think are responsible
-0. 421
4 I don’t know firms that I think are not responsible
-0. 454
5 I don’t care about information on social and environmental behavior
-0. 659
of the firms
6 I bought a fair trade product in the last year
0. 550
7 I bought products/services that are give a part of the price to social
0. 578
or environmental initiative in the last year
8 I try to purchase products/services of the firms that I think are
0. 620
9 I try to not purchase products/services of the firms that I think are
0. 580
not responsible
10 I speak badly about the firms that I think are not responsible
0. 462
11 I suggest to purchase the product of the firms that I think are
0. 456
12 I think that firms are responsible only to have a higher selling price
-0. 430
13 I think that today the cost of responsible products is too high for my
-0. 456
14 I do not change my behavior with the firms that I think are not
-0. 481
Table 2. The descriptive statistics and Tests for Responsible Attitude
Demographic variables Groups
Educational level
Geographical area
Mean Median
0. 057
0. 067
0. 041
0. 060
> 65
232 -0. 192
180 -0. 080
721 0. 029
1,509 0. 074
890 0. 101
759 0. 075
807 0. 037
838 -0. 036
-0. 235
-0. 116
0. 039
0. 092
0. 128
0. 089
0. 050
-0. 040
0. 302 -0. 791 0. 861 t(5,098)=1. 907;
p=0. 057;
0. 310 -0. 887 0. 860
η2=0. 004
0. 280 -0. 813 0. 586 F(5,098; 6)=38.
0. 325 -0. 801 0. 757
696; p=0. 000
0. 307 -0. 761 0. 809
η2= 0. 043
0. 294 -0. 767 0. 860
0. 293 -0. 887 0. 795
0. 296 -0. 740 0. 743
0. 310 -0. 863 0. 861
0. 292 -0. 863 0. 716 F(5,098; 3)=42.
304; p=0. 000
0. 301 -0. 754 0. 795
η2= 0. 024
0. 027
0. 039
0. 075
0. 089
0. 306 -0. 887 0. 860
0. 109
0. 144
0. 305 -0. 774 0. 861
0. 014
0. 021
0. 293 -0. 887 0. 861
0. 085
0. 089
0. 301 -0. 664 0. 785
0. 224
0. 059
0. 182
0. 083
0. 308 -0. 774 0. 861
0. 308 -0. 813 0. 855
0. 080
0. 090
0. 306 -0. 761 0. 861
0. 071
0. 007
0. 049
0. 083
0. 019
0. 065
0. 302 -0. 757 0. 757
0. 300 -0. 887 0. 814
0. 306 -0. 887 0. 861
F(5,098; 2)=2.
073; p=0. 003
η2= 0. 023
F(5,098; 3)=14.
547; p=0. 000
η2= 0. 008
Table 3. The Post-Hoc Tukey HSD Test For Age
(I) Age
(J) Age
Mean difference (I-J)
- 0. 113*
- 0. 221*
- 0. 266*
- 0. 293*
- 0. 267*
- 0. 229*
0. 112*
- 0. 109*
- 0. 154*
- 0. 180*
- 0. 155*
- 0,116*
0. 221*
0. 109*
- 0. 045*
- 0. 072*
- 0. 046*
- 0. 008
0. 266*
0. 154*
0. 045*
- 0. 026
- 0. 001
0. 038
0. 293*
0. 180*
0. 072*
0. 026
0. 025
0. 064*
0. 267*
0. 155*
0. 046*
0. 001
- 0. 025
0. 039
0. 229*
0. 116*
0. 008
- 0. 038
- 0. 064*
- 0. 039
*=p<0. 05
0. 003
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 003
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 014
0. 000
0. 046
0. 999
0. 000
0. 000
0. 014
0. 359
1. 000
0. 059
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 359
0. 601
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 046
0. 000
0. 601
0. 139
0. 000
0. 000
0. 999
0. 059
0. 000
0. 139
Table 4. The Post-Hoc Tukey HSD Test For Income
(I) Age
(J) Age
Mean difference (I-J)
- 0. 063*
- 0. 111*
- 0. 145*
0. 063*
- 0. 048*
- 0. 082*
0. 111*
0. 048*
- 0. 034*
0. 145*
0. 082*
0. 034*
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 022
0. 000
0. 000
0. 022
*=p<0. 05
Table 5. The Post-Hoc Tukey HSD Test For Educational Level
(I) Educational level
Minimum level
High school
(J) Educational level
High school
Minimum level
Minimum level
High school
*=p<0. 05
Mean difference (I-J)
- 0. 071*
- 0. 139*
0. 071*
- 0. 139*
0. 210*
0. 139*
0. 003
0. 000
0. 003
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
Table 6. The Post-Hoc Tukey HSD Test For Geographical Area
(I) Geographical area
(J) Geographical area
*=p<0. 05
Mean difference (I-J)
- 0. 020
- 0. 011
0. 052*
0. 021
0. 009
0. 072*
0. 012
- 0. 009
0. 063*
- 0. 051*
- 0. 072*
- 0. 063*
0. 355
0. 780
0. 000
0. 355
0. 921
0. 000
0. 780
0. 921
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
0. 000
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