The Role of the Beneficiary in Willingness to Pay for Socially Responsible Products: A Meta-analysis

By Stephanie M. TullyRussell S. Winer
Journal of Retailing
June2014 Vol. 90 Issue 2 Pages 255-274.

Many companies have made significant investments in socially responsible production practices for their products. Environmentally safe cleaning products, fair trade coffee, and sustainable seafood are just a few examples. In this paper, we conduct a meta-analysis of over 80 published and unpublished research papers across a large number of product categories to better understand differences in willingness to pay (WTP) for socially responsible products. In particular, we are interested in whether the beneficiary of the social responsibility program—humans, animals, or the environment—affects WTP. We use two dependent variables: the percentage premium people are willing to pay and the proportion of respondents who are willing to pay a positive premium. We find that the mean percentage premium is 16.8 percent and that, on average, 60 percent of respondents are willing to pay a positive premium. Importantly, across both dependent measures, we find that WTP is greater for products where the socially responsible element benefits humans (e.g., labor practices) compared to those that benefit the environment. Implications for retailers, manufacturers, and future research are discussed.