Queen's Policy Engagement

The ethics of ordering non-essential items online during the coronavirus lockdown

During the current lockdown, should consumers be exercising their moral responsibility when it comes to online shopping asks Dr Laura Steele.

The ethics of ordering non-essential items online during the coronavirus lockdown

In response to the Coronavirus crisis, the UK government announced that all retail outlets, except for those considered to provide essential goods and services, were to close with immediate effect. Online retail is, however, “still open and encouraged”.

So, does that mean we can click with a clear conscience?

Business academics Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten argue that a decision has an ethical dimension to it if it has a significant effect on others it is characterised by choice, and it is perceived as ethically relevant to one or more parties.

Most of us would likely agree that ordering essential items, such as food or medicine, is ethically acceptable. Especially if there is no alternative, as is currently the case for millions of people who have been deemed at high risk due to underlying health conditions, are self-isolating as the result symptoms of COVID-19, or are otherwise unable to shop in person.

But what about goods that are not absolutely necessary, such as clothing that is wanted but not needed, home decor, toys and games, garden furniture and accessories, beauty products or even, depending on your view on the matter, the humble Easter egg?

To continue reading, please click here.


Article originally appeared on The Conversation.

The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license. 

Dr Laura Steele
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Dr Laura Steele is a Lecturer (Education) in Business and Society at Queen's Management School. She has a particular interest in business ethics, governance, social responsibility, and public sector management.

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