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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Ethical Consumption

VERONIKA A. ANDORFER

University of Kassel, Germany

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs110

Scholars and practitioners alike use the term “ethical consumption” in reference to consumers who satisfy their own needs and desires but are at the same time mindful of the consequences their consumption practices have on the environment, on animals, and on other human beings. Having evolved at the beginning of the 1980s, initially mainly focusing on the environmental consequences of consumption, the concept is now applied more broadly to denote a growing field of consumer practices and interdisciplinary research.

A variety of other terms is often used synonymously, albeit with slightly different connotations. To name but the most common ones: green consumption and green consumerism, sustainable consumption, responsible consumption, socially conscious consumption, political consumption/political consumerism. The main difference between the terms “consumption” and “consumerism” is that the former focuses on private consumer choice and individual consumer concerns, while the latter focuses on consumer social movements and consumer activism, consumer manipulation, and ideologies in systems of consumer capitalism (Gabriel and Lang 2006, 8–9). It is often hard to draw clear boundaries between these two terms as they overlap in the day-to-day discourses on ethical consumption.

Widening the narrow scope of green consumption to include a broader array of ethical concerns has triggered ...

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