The Attitude-Behavior Gap

I love this post and had to share it here. Originally written for the Free2Work blog, this is a challenge. What do our spoken values look like when we actually go to make a purchase? Would you compromise your favourite brand or a good deal to buy from an ethical company instead? Be a conscious consumer; read this post, and don’t forget to download the Free2Work App to give yourself the tools to ‘translate your good intentions into action’.

Do you believe that companies should be socially responsible?  Would you be willing to pay somewhat more for a product produced by a company committed to offering decent working conditions?  Would you be willing to forsake your favorite brand in favor of a brand that actively works to address the issues of forced labor and child labor?   Many people would probably instantly and spontaneously answer yes to these questions.  However, if you are among those answering yes, consider how often you in practice haven chosen to buy a more expensive product because it is a product produced by a company committed to social responsibility.  How often have you in reality chosen to buy a less familiar brand in order to support a company actively fighting the crimes of involuntary labor and under aged labor?

Despite good intentions and positive attitudes towards companies taking a social responsibility, purchase behavior too often remains unchanged.  Even though we believe ourselves to be willing to compromise on price or brand familiarity, this is often not translated into action.  Several researchers address this issue and state that there is a gap between consumers’ attitudes towards socially responsible companies and a purchase behavior consistent with such attitudes.

One explanation of the “attitude-behavior gap” is that we are somewhat overconfident in our ability to compromise on traditional purchase criteria, such as price, quality and brand familiarity, in favor of less traditional criteria like ethics.  Basing purchase decisions on ethical criteria rather than price or quality requires us as consumers to break out of our traditional self-oriented way of purchasing and to learn about companies’ efforts to address social issues.  This requires us to engage in “high-involvement” behavior — behavior that takes time and effort to develop.

Another explanation of the discrepancy between attitudes towards ethical companies and purchase behavior is a lack of trust among consumers that the way we shop can positively impact the society and/ or the environment.  There is also a lack of trust that companies stating a commitment to social responsibility are truly ethical in their business behavior.  Consequently, it is important for companies to prove that their claims to responsibility are authentic in order for us as consumers to act on our positive attitudes.

However, one of the most significant explanations of why consumers’ purchase behavior often remains unchanged is a lack of awareness about companies’ efforts to address ethical issues and to be socially responsible.  Without knowledge of such initiatives, neither attitudes nor behavior will change.  The difficulty, however, is that it would be a daunting task for an average busy consumer to acquire and store information about all of the different brands and products available on the shelves.  Providing consumers with easy access to such information while they shop could help change positive attitudes into an actual purchase behavior, rewarding companies making an effort to take responsibility for people and our planet.

Free2Work’s app is a valuable and unique tool that can help us as consumers to translate our good intentions into action, bridging the attitude-behavior gap.  It provides us with information when we need it, where we need it – while shopping!  You don’t have to spend hours searching for information about companies’ efforts to address child labor and forced labor: you just have to download the Free2Work app and scan the barcode of the product you wish to buy.  It has never been easier to put our good will into action and to concretely reward responsible and respectful companies.  Go to and download the app today!

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