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School of Business | Department of Marketing and Management | Marketing | 2009
Thesis number: 12188
Ethical consumption as an identity project - A narrative approach to Finnish ethical consumers’ identity construction
Author: Romu, Heidi
Title: Ethical consumption as an identity project - A narrative approach to Finnish ethical consumers’ identity construction
Year: 2009  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing and Management
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kulutus; consumption; kuluttajat; consumers; yhteiskuntavastuu; corporate responsibility; identiteetti; identity; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; tarina; narrative; haastattelu; interview
Pages: 114
Full text:
» hse_ethesis_12188.pdf pdf  size:996 KB (1019646)
Key terms: ethical consumption; postmodern consumer; identity; narrative; life story interview
Objective of the study

Aim of this study is to explore Finnish ethical consumers: Their values, preferences and habits. I will view ethical consumption as an identity project, that is to say, I will study how the consumer of the postmodern times constructs his or her identity by making ethical consumption choices.

Research method

This research is qualitative in its nature. I conducted six life story interviews with Finnish young adults, who declare themselves ethical consumers. This open-ended and in-depth research method enabled me to obtain true understanding of my informants’ behavior as ethical consumers.

In organizing the transcribed interview data I used the methods of narrative analysis. I closely examined the interviewees’ stories, and found common patterns of meaning in them. Based on these meanings, I elaborated five different themes and analyzed the data according to them.


The main findings of the research are fivefold as there were five emerging themes. First, the ethical consumers appeared to be ethically oriented from their teenage years, and ethical consumerism is a lifelong project to them. Second, the ethical consumers share the critique of the consumer society and ‘throw-away’ culture. They refuse to participate in the consumption hysteria and, instead, try to make sustainable consumption choices whenever it is possible. Third, ethical consumption acts as a way of social bonding. The ethical consumers fulfill their need of belongingness and are seeking acceptance from their peers through their ethical behavior. Fourth, the ethical consumers are striving for harmony with the surrounding reality: They try to respect the nature as well as appraise both human and animal rights in all their actions. Fifth, the ethical consumers have a strong will to influence things, and they believe in making a difference by their ethical action.

Together these five themes contribute to the ethical consumers’ identity construction. The ultimate goal in the ethical consumers’ identity projects is to become a better consumer, even a better person. One’s identity as ethical consumer is one of the individual’s many identities, and this identity is developing all the time.


Ethical consumption, postmodern consumer, identity, narrative, life story interview
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