Third world shoppers more ethical than first world peers

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Emerging market consumers are more likely to choose a product based on whether it's perceived as socially responsible than their developed market counterparts, according to a new survey.

Over 70 percent of Indonesian, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, Indian and Filipino consumers surveyed by MasterCard said they consider whether a product is fair trade, environmentally friendly or donates a portion of proceeds to charity when shopping.

This compares with below 30 percent of consumers in Australia, 34 percent in New Zealand, 38 percent in Hong Kong and Korea and 39 percent in Japan, according to MasterCard's Ethical Shopping Survey 2015 published on Thursday.

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The most important ethical issue for shoppers in the region when choosing where to buy from is whether the merchant is environmentally responsible.

"The fast growth experienced by many emerging markets can often feel unplanned and disruptive, which leads to increased concern about its impact on the local environment and society," said Georgette Tan, group head, communications, Asia-Pacific at MasterCard.

"This may be the key reason why consumers in emerging markets are more thoughtful when it comes to choosing products, brands and merchants that act ethically and are socially responsible. Another contributing factor could be that emerging markets are where a supply chain begins, so it is only natural for consumers in these countries to favor fair trade products and merchants that give back to local communities," said Tan.

Consumers in developed markets, on the other hand, may be less exposed to the impacts of environmental degradation and social strife, so these issues are not top-of-mind when shopping, said Tan.

In addition, the current generation of consumers in developed markets are likely to be one-step removed from the supply chain process, she added.

The survey results are based on interviews with more than 7,000 consumers aged 18-64 across 14 markets in the region.