Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2009

Sweatshop Labor is Wrong Unless the Jeans are Cute: Motivated Moral Disengagement

by Neeru Paharia and Rohit Deshpandé

Abstract

While many consumers say they care about issues such as sweatshop labor, the existence of a very small market for ethically-produced products does not reflect this sentiment. One explanation for this discrepancy is that consumers are motivated to use moral disengagement strategies to reduce cognitive dissonance when their desire for a product conflicts with their moral standards. In two studies we show levels of moral disengagement can vary based on one's desire for a product when sweatshop labor is present. Furthermore, we present evidence for a mediated moderation where beliefs about sweatshop labor use moderates the impact of desirability on purchase intention, and moral disengagement mediates this process. Motivated mechanisms of moral disengagement are relevant in moral psychology, and have public policy implications.

Keywords: Ethics; Moral Sensibility; Working Conditions; Consumer Behavior; Production; Conflict and Resolution; Motivation and Incentives;

Citation:

Paharia, Neeru, and Rohit Deshpandé. "Sweatshop Labor is Wrong Unless the Jeans are Cute: Motivated Moral Disengagement ." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 09-079, January 2009.