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It’s All about Distinction: The Lifestyle Embeddedness of Fair Trade Consumption

Published: 3 October 2021
 by  MDPI

Abstract: Social scientists have argued that ethical consumption is embedded into broader lifestyles running across various domains of social life. For instance, fair trade consumption might be part of a distinctive lifestyle, including behaviors such as going to fancy restaurants or the opera. We, therefore, investigate the relationships of the main dimensions of broader lifestyles to various aspects of fair trade consumption—from purchase frequency, to visiting specialized stores, to the identification with fair trade. The analysis relies on data collected in the Summer of 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland. Since per capita consumption of fair trade products in this country was on a comparatively high level, the results are also important for other societies experiencing only currently the mainstreaming of fair trade. The first dimension, distinctiveness of lifestyles, denoting orientations and behaviors with high social prestige in society, emerges as a substantial and important determinant of all included aspects of fair trade consumption. The second dimension, modernity, is only correlated with a subset of these aspects. These effects are robust, even when taking ethical and political orientations and resource endowment into account. Hence, differences between lifestyle groups do not simply reflect the social position of high-status consumers or their ethical and political views. They reflect orientations, mental representations and routines specific to these social groups. Broader lifestyles are, therefore, a relevant addition to explanations of fair trade consumption.
Keywords: lifestyle analysis / broader lifestyles / distinction / modernity / social status / buying behavior / distribution channels / motivations / identity / routine

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