Gauri Chandra, currently DPhil student at the Blavatnik School, recently published a paper entitled "Buying for good: Altruism, ethical consumerism and social policy" published by the international journal Social Policy & Administration.
The paper, co-authored by Gauri, Julian Le Grand and Jonathan Roberts, aims to understand what motivates ethical consumerism, and to study altruistic behaviour in market settings. They report on empirical research into such behaviour in consumer markets and discuss three factors that have been hypothesised to affect the extent and depth of altruism: the degree of personal sacrifice involved in the purchase, the reputation of individuals with their family and friends, and individuals' sense of self-identity.
Using an online survey method, they measure consumers' motivations for real purchases in two different ethical consumerism settings: (RED) and Fairtrade. They find evidence to support all three hypotheses and conclude that ethical consumerism can complement more conventional instruments of social and economic policy in many ways (eg market regulation function, revenue-raising function, avenue for political signalling/ civic expression).