Seeking sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research

Purpose: Seeking ways towards a sustainable future is the most dominant socio-political challenge of our time. Marketing should have a crucial role to play in leading research and impact in sustainability, yet it is limited by relying on cognitive behavioural theories rooted in the 1970s, which have proved to have little bearing on actual behaviour. This paper aims to interrogate why marketing is failing to address the challenge of sustainability and identify alternative approaches. Design/methodology/approach: The constraint in theoretical development contextualises the problem, followed by a focus on four key themes to promote theory development: developing sustainable people; models of alternative consumption; building towards sustainable marketplaces; and theoretical domains for the future. These themes were developed and refined during the 2018 Academy of Marketing workshop on seeking sustainable futures. MacInnis’s (2011) framework for conceptual contributions in marketing provides the narrative thread and structure. Findings: The current state of play is explicated, combining the four themes and MacInnis’s framework to identify the failures and gaps in extant approaches to the field. Research limitations/implications: This paper sets a new research agenda for the marketing discipline in quest for sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research. Practical implications: Approaches are proposed which will allow the transformation of the dominant socio-economic systems towards a model capable of promoting a sustainable future. Originality/value: The paper provides thought leadership in marketing and sustainability as befits the special issue, by moving beyond the description of the problem to making a conceptual contribution and setting a research agenda for the future.


consumer research  marketing theory  sustainability 


Iain Davies, Victoria Wells, Lisa O'Malley, Fraser McLeay, Sally McKechnie, Seonaidh McDonald, Maria Lichrou, Pierre McDonagh, Teresa Heath, Katherine Casey, Marylyn Carrigan, Caroline Tynan, Caroline J. Oates, and Claudia E. Henninger (2020). Seeking sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research. European Journal of Marketing, 54(11), Pages 2911-2939.



Iain Davies
Victoria Wells
Lisa O'Malley
Fraser McLeay
Sally McKechnie
Seonaidh McDonald
Maria Lichrou
Pierre McDonagh
Teresa Heath
Katherine Casey
Marylyn Carrigan
Caroline Tynan
Caroline J. Oates
Claudia E. Henninger

European Journal of Marketing | 2020

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