Moral licensing is a term commonly used in social psychology and marketing, referring to the unconscious way in which we are less conscious of immoral behavior, after acting in a moral way. For example in one study where customers viewed a 40-second video praising their actions, 33.3 percent of those customers bought eco-friendly batteries. Those who saw a similar video, this time praising the company's efforts, purchased the eco-friendly batteries 69.6 percent of the time.
Moral licensing has growing significance in the retail industry today, as more brands focus on sustainable and corporate social responsibility marketing. Maryam Kouchaki and Ata Jami reported for Harvard Business Review that corporate philanthropy reached $18.5 billion in 2015, and cause-related marketing increased to about $2 billion in 2016. In the short-term, if brands and retailers want to effect altruistic consumer behavior, we will use messaging that asks for a commitment to a cause, rather than praising customers for their dedication.
Want to learn more about moral licensing?