Marketing Management and Sustainable Consumption & Production (SC&P) This special issue of the Journal of Marketing Management invited marketing academics and practitioners to reflect on sustainability and its consequences by asking various stakeholders to voice their concerns with respect to the question: ‘what does the sustainability discourse do to and for marketing management?’ Sustainability has been a recurring concept in this journal and the discipline at large. JMM produced two special issues focused on this theme, the first in 1998 and again in 2012. McDonagh and Prothero (2014) built on a previous assessment of sustainability marketing literature from 1971 to 1998 and provided a synthesis and critical assessment of the concept covering the period 1998–2013. While these responses to macromarketing and other social science scholarship was encouraged, the primary focus of this special issue is on marketing management, branding and extending prior sustainability literature in an enriching way.
Sustainability scholarship dovetails with many other emerging concepts in the marketing discipline. Hewer and Tadajewski (2014) noted in the 30th anniversary of this journal (see Volume 30:11-12) how marketing’s disciplinary boundaries are altering through the escalation of scholarship in diverse areas of interest such as Consumer Culture Theory, digital and virtual consumption, behavioural psychology, relational marketing and social marketing. Scholarly publications in marketing also portend increased recognition of historical and critical analyses of the marketplace.
Marketing management and managers are increasingly being challenged to adapt to social-technical facets of an ever-changing global economy. At the same time marketing practitioners are also being called upon to provide more sustainable offerings to the marketplace. Thus marketing managers are doubly challenged by the need for sustainable innovation and the quest for sustainable brands. The consequences of these multiple pressures now leads to more incidents of firms engaging with technologies focused on sustainability in parallel with heightened activism. Understanding and engaging in sustainable marketing practices (Martin & Schouten, 2012) is especially important in this epoch of social media, where anyone with a smart phone can expose ‘greenwashing’ and ‘astroturfing’ if marketing managers are perceived to be getting it wrong.
Marketing is a multifaceted discipline that has much to offer in the quest for increasing sustainable production and consumption. We can expect more celebrations of breakthrough innovations and more calls for lifestyle changes that challenge mainstream perspectives of what is the norm. Thus our call for papers sought to advance the journal’s contributions to deliberations on the possibility of sustainability.
In this Special Issue of the Journal of Marketing Management we present the distillation of 26 submissions to our call for papers, which have been distilled through the review process into the following seven papers.
The first offering ‘When people take action ….’ Mainstreaming Malcontent and the Role of the Celebrity Institutional Entrepreneur’ by Gillian Hopkinson and James Cronin uses institutional theory and interpretive analysis to consider how Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a well-known chef, TV personality and long-time food campaigner, launched The Big Fish Fight, primarily through a TV documentary series on UK Channel 4. The goal of the TV program was to promote mindful and ecologically viable consumption. The first series was aired over consecutive evenings and considered several aspects of marine sustainability. Perhaps most widely noted for its stand against EU-allowed fish discards (i.e. jettisoned or discarded excesses of fish). The campaign demonstrated Hugh’s activism and ability to draw public attention to an issue and mobilise widespread support with a web-based petition signed by 870,000 people from 195 countries. Hopkinson and Cronin argue that through the transformative aspect of the celebrity campaign, sustainable consumption and production is transformed into a compelling marketing issue and consumer participation becomes normalised and desirable.
The second contribution ‘Less is More: Is A Green Demarketing Strategy Sustainable?’ by Catherine Armstrong Soule and Brandon Reich explores consumers’ perceptions of the business motivations behind a new type of sustainable business strategy – green demarketing. Green demarketing refers to a strategy whereby a brand encourages consumers to consider environmental concerns and to buy less at the category level through purchase of the company’s brand. In two studies, the authors provide evidence that consumers do indeed make different motive attributions about green demarketing messages depending on characteristics of the brand and specifically the brand’s environmental reputation. Study 1 utilised a fictional brand and therefore could not account for consumers’ brand-related habits. Study 2 addressed these limitations by examining consumer response to green demarketing with an experiment testing habitual consumption patterns by using consumer brands in a larger, more diverse population. Results show that the brand’s environmental reputation is the strongest predictor of consumers’ responses toward a green demarketing campaign. Resulting effects persisted above and beyond the influences of the brand’s length of commitment to environmental protection and consumers’ brand habits.
The third paper ‘Buyer Social Responsibility: A General Concept and its Implications for Marketing Management’ by Paul Ingenbleek,Matthew Meulenberg and Hans van Trijp charts the definition of a new concept Buyer Social Responsibility (BSR). The authors argue that the consumer’s decision-making process, in addition to satisfying individual needs, takes into account the perceived social consequences related to that consumption and social group that experiences those consequences. Drawing from the social dilemma and social issue literatures the authors develop a conceptual framework on consumers’ consideration of social issues in purchase decisions, its potential consequences and its boundary conditions. The article then proceeds to show how companies, governments and non-governmental organizations can strengthen BSR and draw on it to relieve social issues and create profitable market offerings.
The fourth paper ‘Exploring Consumer Responsibility for Sustainable Consumption’ by Michael Luchs, Marcus Phipps and Tim Hill focuses on the emerging concept of Consumer Responsibility for Sustainable Consumption (CRSC). The authors employ a recently developed scale of consumer’s ‘felt responsibility’ for sustainable consumption. Their empirical results demonstrate how CRSC relates to the established sustainable consumption attitude-behaviour gap. They situate the emerging concept of consumer responsibility for sustainable consumption within the context of established consumer psychology constructs. Furthermore, the authors provide a synthesis of extant conceptualizations of consumer responsibility to inform current industry practice and potentially guide future research by describing a more refined conceptualization of consumer responsibility for sustainable consumption.
The fifth paper in this Special Issue ‘A UK-China multi-construct empirical investigation of sustainable consumption behaviours: Advancing marketing practice beyond the mundane’ by Janine Dermody, Stuart Hanmer-Lloyd, Nicole Koenig-Lewis and Anita Lifen Zhao contributes to knowledge by examining the mediating role of pro-environmental self-identity to more fully explain consumers’ (non)sustainable consumption behaviour. The authors’ contribution involves a multi-cultural and holistic research approach to sustainable consumption behaviours. The authors suggest bolder, culturally-informed and more reflexive marketing strategies are needed to significantly advance sustainable consumption.
The penultimate paper ‘Flying in the face of environmental concern: Why green consumers continue to fly’ by Seonaidh McDonald,Caroline Oates, Maree Thyne, Andrew J. Timmis and Claire Carlile examines self identity and mitigating behaviour. The aim of the paper is not to test or apply cognitive dissonance theory deductively, but to use it as a lens to examine green consumer narratives about the differences between their ideals and their actual behaviours. Qualitative interview data gathered from self-selected green consumers were set within a cognitive dissonance analytical framework. The authors’ analysis considers the rationales provided by these green consumers and implications are outlined for social marketing and the management of sustainability, broadly writ.
The final paper ‘Rev Billy vs. the Market: A sane man in a world of omnipotent fantasies’ by James Freund unpackes the case of the anti-consumerism activist William Talen, aka Reverend Billy and critiques an ever-expanding world market and the feelings of powerlessness one might have in the face of such presumed market omnipotence. Freund argues that progress toward a more sustainable existence requires resisting fantasies of market omnipotence, while directing consumer will toward ecological choices. Drawing from a psychodynamic approach, Freund uses the case of Rev Billy’s tragicomedy to examine and critique the role of power in the globally-interconnected marketplace.
We hope you find much value in the papers in this Special Issue of the JMM. It has been an honour to work with triple blind review process for all submissions and we are eternally grateful to the reviewers who so willingly gave of their time to help bring the Special Issue to life. Working with the expertise of the Journal’s administrative team Anne Foy and Fiona Lees, we more fully appreciate why this Journal remains the key platform within the UK’s Academy of Marketing for leading work of marketing management.