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Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility Essay


In the current business trend, the market is described by the rule of “caveat emptor”. However, ethical characters in consumers who are capable of exercising their rights and responsibilities can change this principle to “caveat venditor”. Consumer responsibility is a situation where buyers or end-users use their purchasing rights and choices without harming other consumers or the environment, (Torluccio 81).

The effect caused by any product both to other consumers and or the environment is as a result of choices made by individual users. In this document, we shall discuss various ways how moral responsibility and behavior exercised by many consumers harm the environment and other consumers.

Schwartz (47-48) describes consumers as casual agents whose choices may be responsible for harm to others. In any given production cycle, demand is a major factor that calls for production. This argument, therefore, means that continuous production by use of cheap labor is because of the increased market presented by other large organizations. Consumers are constantly looking for cheap products.

It has driven industries to cope with the trend in demand that results in the use of both cheap labor and also the production of substandard products to meet the cheap demand. Scholars have also found that human beings are never satisfied and will always look for cheap commodity without minding who is responsible for the production. The increasing search for a cheap product leaves no option to producers other than search for cheap labor to enable profitability. In this case, consumers are directly responsible for poor working conditions of labor providers.

Consumer responsibility should involve both rights and duties of every consumer in fostering sustainable use of goods and commodity. They shall, therefore, act as agents for the sustainable use of a product and are responsible for harm caused by any commodity to other users or the environment.

Understanding the role of consumers in the promotion of harmful consequences is better explained through consequentialist view.

Purchases trigger an addition in production through an increase in demand. Production increases as a result of increased demand. The increase in the number of demand increases more need for cheap labor to enable production to meet the demand, hence increase in the adverse consequences of the process. It is one of the factors driving end effects of poor working conditions and forced labor.

The growing demand for this products with low returns both locally and internationally has led to more pressure on producers who, therefore, increase the amount of labor. Consumers however little they purchase will contribute to an overall triggering of a situation. Same actions made by different immoral consumers add up to make a big effect on the situation. Scholars explained that as different consumers purchase the same product, each purchase contributes to a triggering purchase nearer to the outcome, (Schwartz 60).

This theory explains that similar immoral choices by different consumers cause little damage but as a result they accumulate and make an enormous impact on the environment. It is also called imperceptible-harm theory by other scholars.

Individual consumer responsibility is also important since it influences the choice of other consumers. Some researchers term this influencing effect as “social contagion”; it is evident that many people will make choices for consumption based on others. It is very significant in the general output of the consequences. Many buyers get involved because of the increasing influence from others in business, and the growth in the influencing effect leads to more production hence damage to the environment, (Kline 12).

It is also relevant to note that, although many producers may want to keep to the standards of the working and keep their prices precise, consumers will always search for a cheap product elsewhere. The condition, therefore, leaves all producers to cope with the low-profit margins through other methods of production such as poor quality inputs.

However, scholars have discussed the influence of consumer responsibility for the outcome and consequences to be minor and that other factors other than consumer responsibility affect other consumers. Not all purchases make a difference. Some purchases are little and; therefore, do not make any difference in the outcome. It is also evident that some purchases are minuscule and, therefore, their impact is minimal and cannot affect the result of the whole process but rather other factors such as the search for employment.

Influencing effect is considered important in consumer responsibility; however it is only important where an individual consumer publically announces their stand in a given situation. In cases where individual make decisions without involving others, the effect on the end position is minimal and, therefore, poses a little threat especially the decision is hazardous. People tend to be influenced by others in cases where the outcome is positive and less influence in negative brands.

It is also important to note that the effect on consequentialism may come as a result of an individual encouraging others to participate in a defined process. This effect is possible if the person successfully encourages others to take a particular action rather than personal involvement in purchasing.

It is also important to understand that various decisions by individual consumers may not affect the whole situation since they are minute. In China, a single purchase of a cheap product may not have a considerable effect on the amount of workforce needed for production. Changes in production factors are high when more individuals participate in a purchasing process. It is, therefore, a process of many people taking part in the consumption of the products. It is opposed to the principle that individual decisions are responsible for the general consequences of the outcome.

Philosophers have also expressed concern about the aspect that collective responsibility only focuses on joint wrong-doing rather than individual contributions to the outcome. In other cases, collective wrongdoing may be accurate. However, an assignment of culpability will base on average rather than the actual result of a person.

However much scholars relate adverse consequences to other factors rather than consumer responsibility, it is important to note that many of the environmental degradation and poor working condition is as a result of choices made by consumers. In any end consequence, a consumer is involved and in all ways. Addressing global environmental challenges should, therefore, target consumer needs and responsibilities and therefore through first addressing consumer responsibility well explains most of the challenges and effects of their choices on other consumers.

Works Cited

Kline, John M. “ethics and international business.” Ethics for International Business: Decision Making in a Global Political Economy. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2005, 2(2), 9-12. Print.

Schwartz, David T. “the consumer as a causal agent.” Consuming Choices: Ethics in a Global Consumer Age, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010. 47-67, Print.

Torluccio, Giuseppe. “Consumer ethics and social responsibility.” Economics, Social Responsibility, and Consumers: the Ethical Perception. Saarbrücken: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, 2012, 3(1) 82. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 13). Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/consumer-ethics-and-social-responsibility/

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"Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility." IvyPanda, 13 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/consumer-ethics-and-social-responsibility/.

1. IvyPanda. "Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/consumer-ethics-and-social-responsibility/.


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IvyPanda. "Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/consumer-ethics-and-social-responsibility/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility." September 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/consumer-ethics-and-social-responsibility/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Consumer Ethics and Social Responsibility'. 13 September.

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