The Marginalised Role of the Consumer: an exploration of consumer interpretations and corporate presentation of sustainability

UoM administered thesis: Phd

Abstract

This thesis explores consumers' interpretations of their personal consumption, sustainability and the relationship between the two, in parallel with the presentation of sustainability by corporate organisations, in order to contribute to sustainability marketing theory. Findings from this research illustrate an interpretation of sustainability and consumption that centralises the role of organisations. This interpretation presents an alternative perspective to the extant literature that typically positions the consumer as central and individual adoption of sustainable consumption as an effective route to sustainability, and is thereby conceptualised as the marginalised role of the consumer. Research was undertaken with the intent of exploring consumers' interpretations of personal consumption and sustainability, rather than maintaining existing academic assumptions identified in the literature. Accordingly, an interpretivist paradigm was adopted. Two stages of research were undertaken. Stage one undertook semi-structured interviews with fifteen consumers and generates key themes that illustrate participants' displacement of responsibility for sustainability to organisations. Stage two explored the macro-social context of participants' interpretations by examining the presentation of sustainability by organisations that market products and services, undertaking documentary analysis of open-published sustainability documents, from thirty four organisations referenced by the participants in stage one. This second stage of research generates key themes that illustrate corporate undertaking of responsibility for sustainability. These parallel themes illustrate the interpretation and presentation of personal consumption as insignificant, as sustainability requires large scale, collective change that can only be enacted by organisations whose scale enables them to drive sustainable consumption. This thesis empirically reveals the marginalised role of the consumer that illustrates consumer interpretations, and corporate presentation, of organisations driving sustainability. This new theory presents an alternative perspective to the extant literature that typically positions the consumer as central and individual adoption of sustainable consumption as an effective route to sustainability. The marginalised role of the consumer thus challenges and extends the extant data, and contributes to sustainability marketing theory by presenting new considerations for marketers.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Terry Newholm (Supervisor)
  • Anthony Grimes (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2018