Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Everytime you spend money you are casting a vote for the type of world you want" – Anne Lappé

Our project is trying to raise awareness about the range of ethical alternatives there are for many of the highly used and known brands and products. In our project we aim to tackle two main things - bringing ethical consumerism to the forefront of people's minds with easy to access information & closing the gap between attitudes and behaviours in order to convert all of the claimed 'ethical consumers' into 'ethical purchasers'.

Why is this an issue? (PETA; Macintyre, 2014).
  • Billions of animals are killed for their meat eat year and 1 billion are murdered to fuel the cruel fur trade each year 
  • Millions of animals still undergo torture and cruelty for animal testing to provide cosmetics 
  • Deforestation and extinction of animals are huge concerns as exploitation of land for materials and ingredients such as Palm Oil are causing catastrophic for many habitats 
  • Thousands of children are still being exploited in child labour to produce products in our gadgets, appliances and clothes 
  • Workers in third world countries are being paid negligible amounts in return for their hard work and crops, and these are being sold at ridiculously high prices for profit, benefiting large businesses when the workers barely have enough to live on. 

So why are we trying to promote ethical consumerism?

Due to the reasons listed there has been a large increase in the consciousness of consumers across the world, and in the UK through many scandals and lack of integrity of businesses, there has been a rise in shopping for organic products, free range meat and cruelty-free cosmetics. This rise, however, is nowhere near what it should be. Research shows that 30% of consumers in the UK claim to be ethical consumers who care about reducing harm to the environment, animals and humans... however ethical decision making when it concerns the purchasing of ethical products is only 3% of the revenue for consumption in the UK (Cowe ad Williams, 2000) Therefore there is this 'Attitude-Behaviour Gap' which has been dually noted as a large problem for ethical good providers and large unethical businesses. This is because though there is an increased amount of ethical products available on the market, due to the lack of purchasing, the promotion and accessibility of these products in daily stores is being compromised. Another issue that the industry faces is the lack of consistency around what actually makes an ethical consumer and the types of actions that make one purchase ethically. Our project aims to provide clear information on the differences between many concepts such as organic, fair-trade, cruelty-free and the many ethical labels we are presented with but don't understand.

So what are we doing about it?

We chose to create a Pinterest page in an attempt to promote ethical consumerism and provide easily, accessible, links to ethical alternatives in order to increase the perceived behavioural control of conscious consumers. The reason we chose Pinterest was because it matched out target audience, as research shows that the people most likely to purchase ethical products are affluent women over the age of 30, and generally in public or care roles (Oxfam-Campaigns, 1995). The demographics of Pinterest show that 45% of online women use it and particularly to form ideas and find particular products which is something Facebook and Twitter are not specialised for. Around 70% of the women are also aged over 30 and earn from 30-75,000$ making them our prime audience. The great thing about Pinterest is that it allows us to visually attract audiences who already possess a belief that ethical consumerism is popular, interested or important as you are only shown the pins if you have searched similar things or search for the topic in particular. Therefore we can assume we are targeting that '30%' and therefore by providing them with information and accessible links, we are increasing the chance that they will read, and develop a sense of commitment to the information provided as their values are already in line with protecting the planet and people (Gollwitzer, 1999). Lastly, the ethical alternatives we provide links to are in the form of products that do not require high premiums, which is known to be one of the largest inhibitors of ethical consumerism (Hurtado, 1998). Therefore, we are giving those who are interested a viable ethical alternative along with a plan on how to implement these behaviours (Gollwitzer, 1999)

How we did it:

Our project mainly focuses on 5 categories; food, fashion, electronics, beauty products and, in order to add a touch of distinctiveness, we included weddings. We not only aimed to increase people’s awareness of the immoral practices but we attempted to promote positive and negative purchasing behaviour. Negative purchasing behaviour is the active boycotting of certain brands or products that have proven to be the harmful to the society and environment, and in order to so, we pinned posts that provide lists of unethical companies. Furthermore, we actively researched some of the worst unethical practices in businesses and provided informative blogs on cases such as Apple's supplier company, Foxconn.


Our Pinterest Boards
However, a major issue that many may take with boycotting is the idea that an individual's purchasing behaviour could not have a significant effect on companies' income and thus could not lead to any change in their practices. Therefore, consumers use this doubt to suppress their feelings of guilt (Chatzidakis et al., 2007). In order to tackle this lack of self-efficacy, we have also created blogs that provide evidence on the successful results that previous campaigns and negative purchasing behaviour has had on major companies such as Nike. Not only did this improve self -efficacy but it also promoted a further consumer behaviour known as activism. Consumer activism is the range of activities that a consumer may take the form of any promoting of ethical consumerism aside from purchasing, in order to further aid the community of ethical purchasing. By proving that results could be achieved through these specific purchasing behaviours, we were attempting to encourage others to join in and take actions by raising awareness and encouraging others to become part of this community.

Our pins in the Beauty board

In addition to negatively targeting unethical companies, we also concentrated on promoting ethical companies, as research has shown that those who are less aware of the negative consequences of the unethical practices, tend to be attracted by the positive result of purchasing ethical products (Langland, 1998). Therefore, in an attempt to target a large audience, we pinned posts and wrote multiple blogs providing information on ethical companies and alternative ethical products that could be used in exchange for our current unethical ones. In addition, as discussed by Azjen (1991), a high perceived behavioural control is a good indicator of people actually acting based on their attitudes and intentions. Therefore, by providing alternative products, we believed that our viewers are more likely to alter their consumer habits as they do not feel overwhelmed by guilt and lack of control.

Consumer Action:

In our attempt to capture a large audience, we became aware that many people choose not to purchase ethical products or may do so only once or twice due to the fact that they do not understand the fundamentals of ethical consumerism and may morally purchase in rare moments, as a result of their guilt. However, research has shown that once a consumer is provided with clear and substantial evidence and explanation, they can make an informed decision, which is more likely to become a habit as their decision is based on logical and sound reasoning (Fearne, 2008). Therefore, in an attempt to educate those that may be confused or unaware, we created blogs on all the basic principles of ethical consumerism and step by step plans that they may wish to follow in order to alter their purchasing habits. An implementation plan was also offered in the spirit of Lent, where we used Lent as a opportunity to motivate people to take their first steps towards ethical consumerism.

Some measurable results:

On Pinterest we currently have 73 followers who are engaged with our daily page updates. In addition to this from February to March we so far have 190 AVERAGE daily users, with the highest amount of daily viewers equating to and 266 views. Pinterest also collected a statistic called "Impressions" which basically tells us how many times we are appearing on people's feeds and searches with our posts. We have managed to in the last month have an average of 106 daily impressions and collectively over all of our boards since our page was created we have made 967 impressions!! This provides evidence to us that people are interested in ethical consumerism and we hope to have been able to influence at least 10% of that (or our daily viewers) to consider the ethical alternatives to the unethical products they may be consuming!!

With Love From: Sabrina Bambhra & Medis Moradi


Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes , 50 (2), 179-211.

Chatzidakis, A., Hibbert, S., & Smith, A. P. (2007). Why people don’t take their concerns about fair trade to the supermarket: The role of neutralisation. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(1), 89-100.

Cowe, R. and S. Williams: 2000, ‘Who are the Ethical Consumers?’, Ethical Consumerism Report, Co- operative Bank. Retrieved from: Pageandcid=1139903089615andpagename=CoopBank%2FPage%2FtplPageStandard.

Fearne, A. (2008), Organic fruit and vegetables – who buys what and why ... and do we have a clue?’ The dunnhumby Academy of Consumer Research, Kent Business School, University of Kent.

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American psychologist,
54(7), 493.

Hurtado, M. E. (1998) Changing consumer expectations and choices. In: Environmental Responsibility in
World Trade. London: British Council.

Oxfam Campaigns (1995) Fair-trade Action Update. Oxfam internal newsletter. Oxford: Oxfam

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