Encouraging more responsible and sustainable consumption is fast becoming an important public policy goal. Global automotive marketing has traditionally encouraged purchase and consumption choices that are optimal for particular individuals. Many of these choices, however, have social and environmental externalities which extend beyond the individual consumer.This paper studies a generalisable question: what leads people to make a purchase decision that may be individually fulfilling, but could be construed by others as harmful in economic, social, environmental, ethical, and/or personal safety terms? It also explores the converse, exploring what leads some people to make a purchase decision that may be construed as beneficial in social, environmental, and/or ethical terms, but not necessarily sensible in individual economic terms?The automotive context offers a useful case study with two very different by successful product classes: the SUV (often criticised as an irresponsible choice) and the small hybrid cars such as the Prius (which many praise as a responsible choice).
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