Study explores how ‘shopping guilt’ affects purchases

Published Tuesday, May 21, 2019
by Ashley Nickle, The Packer

Crestline Custom Promotional Products recently surveyed 2,100 consumers in 25 major cities and found that the majority say they care about company behavior and report having changed their buying habits when they found out a company was harming the environment or treating employees badly.

Crestline asked shoppers which issues matter most to them, rated from 1 to 5 from not important to extremely important.

The top options selected were non-toxic (4.09), cruelty-free/not tested on animals (3.68) and antibiotic/hormone-free (3.53).

The last two items on the list were non-GMO (2.98) and organic (2.96).

The survey also prompted respondents to rate what actions make them feel guilty. The top three were leaving the light on in an empty room, throwing something recyclable in the trash, and buying from a company that supports political causes they oppose.


Among the shoppers surveyed, 83.2% said they are making an effort to reduce waste, per the report.

More than 48% said they always or usually use reusable shopping bags; only 24% said they rarely or never use reusable bags.

More than 63% of shoppers reported having changed their buying habits when they learned a business was harming the environment, while 59.4% said they made changes after learning a business was paying employees low wages or subjecting them to harsh working conditions.

Committing to paying attention

More than 80% indicated they would want to know if a company that makes one of their favorite products was polluting the environment, mistreating workers or behaving unethically so they could stop supporting that business.

Shopper segments

Crestline reported that its survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 86 and indicated 47.1% were men and 52.9% were women.

The firm also took note of the political leanings of respondents, reporting that 25.8% identified as “conservative” or “lean conservative,” 46.7% identified as “liberal” or “lean liberal,” and 27.5% identified as “moderate/independent.”

Crestline found that women, liberals and people with more education were more likely to report caring about corporate social responsibility. Location was also a significant factor, but age was not, according to the survey results.

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