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Bridging the Gap between Ethical Consumers and Corporate Social Responsibility

Sun, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 512G

Abstract

This paper contributes to an ongoing effort by scholars to bridge the gap between the growing literatures on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical consumerism (EC). Though some researchers have called into question the data sources that most ethical consumers rely upon when making their decisions in the marketplace (Carrigan and Attalla, 2001; Mielants et al., 2003; Roberts, 1996), and others have noted the shortcomings in the accuracy of our systems of corporate social responsibility (CSR) measurement (Chelli and Gendron, 2013; Chen and Delmas, 2011; Liston-Heyes and Ceton, 2009; Turker, 2009), in neither of these cases have researchers have been able to uncover viable alternatives to the imperfect solution of third party certifications (a.k.a. ecolabels). Emerging consumer-oriented CSR rating systems, being utilized by millions of consumers in the Anglosphere, may represent some of the first alternatives for CSR and EC scholars, as well as for ethical consumers themselves. This research compares the four most popular consumer-oriented CSR measurement systems produced in the US (GoodGuide, Better World Shopper), UK (Ethical Consumer) and Australia (Shop Ethical). While thousands of companies are rated in each system, statistical analyses are focused on comparing the CSR ratings of the 106 companies common to all four systems. The findings reveal that although each system’s goals of measuring CSR are closely aligned, outcomes are considerably divergent.

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