Shopping for a cause : exploring the role of information systems in ethical consumption.
There is a growing awareness and concern from consumers about the negative impacts of their consumption decisions on the environment, public health, and the global economy. Consequently, consumers are beginning to seek assurance that the products they consume are environmentally and socially conscious. One way consumers can address these concerns is by purchasing ethically sourced products, an activity referred to as ethical consumption. For consumers to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their consumer choices, they must be provided information on the ethical attributes of the products they purchase. Ethical consumption apps (ECAs) provide consumers with this information. ECAs provide real-time information to the consumer on the ethical attributes of products. These mobile apps allow the user to scan products of interest and receive information on the provenance, environmental effects, safety, and social impacts of products at the time of purchase. While ECAs have the potential to encourage ethical consumption, research investigating these applications, their functionality, and use remains scant. The goal of this research is to fill this gap by investigating the following research questions: (1) how do consumers use information provisioned through ethical consumption apps? and (2) what is the impact of ECA use on purchasing behavior? To investigate these research questions, I conduct a qualitative study using a grounded theory approach. Based on the findings of data collected from ECA users and producers, I propose a Model of IT Enabled Behavior Change. This model illuminates the role of information systems in ethical consumption. Moreover, these findings are applicable to understanding how individuals utilize information systems to support voluntary behavior change. These findings have implications for theory, practice, and society.