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Sustainable Consumption Institute

Moral licensing

Moral licensing refers to behavioural patterns identified by psychology experiments where individuals who complete a ‘good act’ – say buying a green product - then feel licensed to conduct a ‘bad act’, such as buying non-green products.

Our aims

Woman unpacking green vegetables from a reusable fabric shopping bag.

Such behaviour could pose a significant problem for policy-makers in business or government seeking to change consumption behaviour.

However, moral licensing also challenges other findings in both psychology and economics - which suggests that individuals act in a consistent fashion.

Theoretical research we have conducted suggests it may be possible to reconcile these two approaches, and we will conduct a number of empirical projects to test the theoretical predictions.

Project leader