“Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” – Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). Critically discuss this statement through the lens of the morality/ ethicality of animal testing in the context of the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP). Discuss how understandings of ethical marketing might be employed to draw implications for consumers, marketers, and other stakeholders.
Assignment Brief and Details
You are expected to prepare your individual essay on any one of the four topics listed below. To complete your assignment, you must conduct a literature review on your chosen topic by drawing from relevant literature from recommended, further, and wider readings (i.e., you are expected also to read beyond the literature suggested for the sessions to inform your arguments).
Please note: the individual essay is a theoretical piece of work, and you must tackle and develop it as such.
Having read the relevant readings carefully, you are expected to integrate these new understandings and use them to critically address your topic. Based on this review you should draw justified conclusions that flow logically from your theoretical premises. Make sure the topic is the central argument in your essay and you should refer to it accordingly in your narrative.
Topic 3: “Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.” – Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). Critically discuss this statement through the lens of the morality/ ethicality of animal testing in the context of the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP). Discuss how understandings of ethical marketing might be employed to draw implications for consumers, marketers, and other stakeholders.
Essay Writing Process
Exemplar Distinction Essay
Topic: “A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty). Critically discuss this statement through the lens of the attitude-behaviour gap. Discuss how understandings of ethical/ sustainable marketing might be employed to reduce or eliminate this gap.
Our current consumption patterns are jeopardising our future through environmental damage (e.g., biodiversity destruction, climate change) and ethical issues (e.g., poverty, social inequality) (White, Habib and Hardisty 2019). The need for an ethical approach to doing business has been recognised as a response to the substantial harm inflicted on the earth and human society (White et al. 2019).
As key stakeholders in the market, customers play a crucial role in addressing these issues through ethical consumption. According to Crane and Matten (2007: 401: 341), ethical consumption is “the conscious and deliberate choice to make certain consumption choices due to personal moral beliefs and values”. Customers are believed to have the sovereignty to vote with their wallets, thereby pushing companies to address ethical issues more enthusiastically (Shaw, Newholm and Dickinson 2006). However, although customers demonstrate positive attitudes towards ethically produced goods, such attitudes do not often translate into consumer behaviour (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002).
According to John Stuart Mill (2000: 20), “a person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury”. The inaction of customers based on their attitudes is recognised as one of the biggest challenges for market agents aiming to promote ethical consumption (White et al. 2019). Additionally, the dichotomy between customers’ attitudes and behaviour also brings into question their sovereignty. As recognised by Alvesson (1994), although customers may have the freedom to make decisions, their self-understanding and interpretation of the world is dominated by social forces. Likewise, Kilbourne and Carlson (2008) claim that the way in which groups and individuals interpret their world is shaped by the dominant social paradigm (DSP).
The remainder of this study delves into the causes of this attitude-behaviour gap from the perspective of the theory of planned behaviour (TPB).
The Causes of Attitude – Behaviour Gap in Ethical Consumption
This section investigates customers’ attitude-behaviour gap in ethical consumption from the perspective of TPB, since this theory provides a theoretical framework from which to systematically examine the factors that influence behaviours. Drawing from the study of Ajzen (1991), TPB postulates that behaviours are determined by intentions and perceived behavioural control (PBC). Intentions, in turn, are predicted by three interacting determinants; namely attitude, subjective norms, and PBC (Ajzen 1991).
According to Ajzen (1991), attitude is the degree to which a person has a favourable or unfavourable evaluation of a behaviour, which is determined based on belief salience and subjective evaluation of outcomes
Belief salience refers to the strength of the belief, which directly contributes to the individual’s attitude towards a behaviour (Ajzen 1991). However, it has been recognised that there is generally low belief salience among customers regarding ethical consumption (Auger and Devinney 2007; Bray, Johns and Kilburn 2011; Carrigan and Attalla 2001). For example, Auger and Devinney (2007) point out the possibility that the optimistic results of some studies concerning customers’ attitudes towards ethical consumption might be overstated due to issues with survey instruments, social desirability, and features of the rating scales. This finding indicates that the belief salience of customers regarding ethical consumption could potentially be much lower than what is shown by extant studies.
Additionally, although customers are generally presumed to be well educated and informed (Carrigan and Attalla 2001), Bray et al. (2011) find that there is still a lack of knowledge among customers to make ethical decisions, which indicates low belief salience, as basic knowledge about ethical issues is a prerequisite for enacting ethical behaviour in a conscious way (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002).
Low belief salience also manifests in the low priority of concerns about ethical issues. For example, Carrigan and Attalla (2001) show that awareness of certain companies’ unethical conduct has no influence on customers’ purchasing behaviour, indicating the low priority given to ethical concerns in customers’ decision-making compared to other factors, such as price, quality, and so forth. Similarly, Bray et al. (2011) find that some customers avoid future purchasing of ethical products when they notice that the price is higher.
Subjective Evaluation of Outcomes
An outcome’s subjective value contributes to both belief salience and attitude (Ajzen 1991). In the case of ethical consumption, customers’ evaluation of outcomes is negatively influenced by the long-term and abstract nature of the effects of ethical consumption and the increasing cynicism (Johnstone and Tan 2015; White et al. 2019). In their study of sustainable consumption, White et al. (2019) suggest that the long time horizon for the outcomes of sustainable consumption to be realised is a challenge to sustainability. The non-immediacy of the payoffs is less desirable to customers, who tend to choose smaller and immediate rather than larger and delayed gratification (Arbuthnott 2010). Moreover, the abstractness of the outcome also has a negative influence on customers’ evaluation. As demonstrated by White et al. (2019), even immediate and local outcomes (e.g., improvement in air quality or biodiversity) are often intangible, let alone other outcomes of ethical consumption, which may focus on benefiting people in another part of the world or future generations. As a result, this non-immediacy and abstractness make it difficult to track and measure the outcomes of ethical consumption, thus undermining customers’ evaluation of outcomes.
Increasing cynicism is also diminishing customers’ evaluation of these outcomes. Bray et al. (2011) find that few participants believe that the premium they pay will actually reach the end beneficiary, largely due to the prevalence of greenwashing, indicating mistrust of organisations’ ethical claims, which increases ambivalence and uncertainty around ethical consumption.
According to prospect theory (Tversky and Kahneman 1979), people tend to avoid risk in choices involving sure gains. In the case of ethical consumption, the benefits of “inaction” (e.g., convenience, low price) are often certain, while the payoffs of “action” are often uncertain, which makes it less desirable. Moreover, people are also more inclined to seek risks in choices involving sure losses (Tversky and Kahneman 1979). Comparing the certain losses of “action” (e.g., comfort, money) with the often intangible losses of “inaction” (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002), people tend to take the risks involved in maintaining conventional consumption.
Subjective norms refers to social approval or disapproval of a certain behaviour (Ajzen 1991), and can be subdivided into injunctive norms and descriptive norms (Cialdini 2003)
Perceptions of what is approved of or disapproved of have a prominent influence on customer behaviour (Schultz, Nolan, Cialdini, Goldstein and Griskevicius 2007), which is closely related to customers building their identity through consumption, as they tend to avoid projecting a negative image of themselves (Banister and Hogg 2004). In the case of sustainable consumption, it has been suggested that a “green stereotype” is creating resistance towards ethical consumption behaviours. For example, Johnstone and Tan (2015: 320) find that some customers express unwillingness to be seen as green customers because such customers are perceived as being preachy and prone to “policing” and “green recruiting”. Moreover, the prevalent association between greenness and femininity also diminishes males’ willingness to participate in green purchasing behaviour (Brough, Wilkie, Ma, Isaac and Gal 2016). Consequently, such unfavourable perceptions diminish customers’ intent to engage in ethical consumption.
While ethical consumption might be negatively perceived, the ideology of consumption in general is being pushed by dominant institutions (e.g., business, media, government), which mostly stimulates consumption in ways that undermine the environment and human society (Assadourian 2010). Consequently, customers become evangelists who drive, perpetuate, and spread consumerist patterns by extolling high-consumption lives and equating happiness to being better off (Assadourian 2010)
The behaviour of others also exerts strong influence on customer behaviour (Schultz et al. 2007). As demonstrated by Johnstone and Tan (2015), some customers believe that others’ behaviours, such as partner purchasing unsustainable products, are directly making ethical consumption more difficult. Additionally, it has been suggested that the widespread of unethical consumption can potentially increase the occurrence of such behaviours (Cialdini 2003). Due to the marginal market share of ethical products (Shaw et al. 2006), it is likely that customers perceive the purchasing of conventional products as the norm, thereby justifying the decision not to purchase ethically produced goods. On the other hand, with the prevalence of consumption ideology within the DSP, many unethical consumer behaviours have become descriptive norms. For instance, the norms around weddings and funerals lead to the consumption of a large amount of unnecessary resources while also leading to the perception of abnormality if people do not abide by these standards (Assadourian 2010).
Perceived behavioural control
PBC refers to the perceived ease or difficulty of performing a behaviour (Ajzen 1991), which it has been suggested can be separated into self-efficacy and perceived control (Povey, Conner, Sparks, James and Shepherd 2000).
Self-efficacy reflects internal control factors, and has been found to be a significant predictor of intentions (Povey et al. 2000). It has been demonstrated by many studies that consumers’ PBC regarding ethical consumption can be negatively influenced by internal factors (e.g., Chatzidakis, Hibbert and Smith 2006; White et al. 2019). For example, the neutralisation theory has been applied to ethical consumer behaviour, demonstrating customers’ ability to mitigate their feelings of guilt or dissonance (i.e., neutralisation) when facing the inconsistency between their behaviour and attitudes (Chatzidakis et al. 2006).
Research by Mintel (2021) finds that many customers hold companies and governments more accountable for sustainable behaviours, believing that individuals’ behaviours are less likely to make a difference, which supports the neutralisation technique of denial of responsibility (Chatzidakis et al. 2006).
Another cause of low self-efficacy is a sense of powerlessness (Johnstone and Tan 2015). The perception that ethical consumer behaviour is laborious, timeconsuming, and difficult to carry out can be a great barrier (White et al. 2019). For example, when comparing the time and cost required to make the “green” choice and the convenience and comfort of conventional consumption, customers might perceive green consumption to be unattainable, triggering a sense of powerlessness, which would significantly decrease their self-efficacy (Johnstone and Tan 2015).
Moreover, the conflict between individual and social values also contributes to the decline of customers’ self-efficacy. According to White et al. (2019), consumer often regard ethical consumption as a form of self-sacrifice to benefit others (e.g., environment, society). In such a self-other trade-off, altruistic and social values are often overridden by individual values that benefit one’s own needs (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002).
Additionally, customers also face a trade-off between immediate and delayed gratification. As recognised by Arbuthnott (2010), customers tend to choose smaller and immediate gratification instead of larger and delayed gratification, especially when delaying gratification will not result in personal future benefits. Therefore, the immediate convenience and comfort of conventional consumption would be preferable to most customers, rather than the long-term and altruistic gratification of ethical consumption.
Perceived control reflects external control factors, which are more predictive of actual behaviours (Povey et al. 2000). Extant studies have identified many external inhibitors of ethical consumption, such as price (Johnstone and Tan 2015), loss of quality (Park and Lin 2020), time pressure (Carrigan and Attalla 2001), institutional barriers (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002), and so forth. For instance, as a key factor in customers’ decision making, price is a recurring topic in the literature of ethical consumption (Carrigan and Attalla 2001; Johnstone and Tan 2015). Although the work of Trudel and Cotte (2009) shows that customers are willing to pay a premium for ethically produced goods, some studies find that the added price is still a significant barrier to many customers (e.g., Bray et al. 2011; Johnstone and Tan 2015). For example, some customers tend to avoid purchasing ethically produced consumables because doing so will result in a periodical cost (Bray et al. 2011). Additionally, some customers refuse to buy ethical products simply because they are unaffordable to them (Johnstone and Tan 2015). Carrigan and Attalla (2001) claim that ethical purchasing will only take place when there is no added price.
Loss of quality is also a challenge to ethical consumption. Utilitarian value has an important influence on the decision making of customers (Park and Lin 2020). However, ethically produced products are sometimes perceived as poor in quality. For example, some customers associate products branded “fair trade” with low quality (Bray et al. 2011). Likewise, recycled products are often associated with a high level of functional risk, which undermines customers’ purchase intention (Park and Lin 2020). Additionally, in terms of fashion products, it has been suggested that customers will not make ethical purchases unless they can maintain their fashion status, indicating that brand image is more important than ethical concerns in choosing products such as clothing (Carrigan and Attalla 2001).
Moreover, the time pressure in customers’ lives can also impede ethical consumption, as they do not always have the time to take into consideration the ethical aspects of their consumption (Carrigan and Attalla 2001). Additionally, institutional factors also play an important role in ethical consumption, since the lack of necessary infrastructure would restrain people from ethical consumer behaviours such as recycling, donating, taking public transportation, etc. (Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002).
Through investigating the attitude-behaviour gap in ethical consumption, this study challenges the belief in customer sovereignty by demonstrating that customers’ decision making is shaped by the DSP through influences on attitudes, subjective norms, and PCB.
One approach to eliminate this gap is to free customers from the influence of DSP through consumer empowerment, which involves the removal of constraints that restrain the sovereignty of customers, such as lack of quality offerings, lack of knowledge, etc. (Papaoikonomou and Alarcon 2017). Through enhancing customer’s resources and skills in decision-making and providing more choices, customers will be empowered to translate their ethical concerns into actions, as evidenced by the significant market growth in some sectors fuelled by the spread of information about ethical concerns (Papaoikonomou and Alarcon 2017; Shaw et al. 2006).
Moreover, the traditional micromarketing orientation that examines the attitudebehaviour gap exclusively from a customer level might not be sufficient to address this issue (Kilbourne and Carlson 2008). Instead, the gap should be considered as under the influence of the DSP, in which most individuals firmly reside and which contradicts their ethical concerns (Kilbourne, McDonagh and Prothero 1997). Therefore, a macromarketing orientation should be adopted to investigate the institutional constraints on individual behaviour and challenge the DSP (Kilbourne et al. 1997; Kilbourne and Carlson 2008).
Through the elimination of the attitude-behaviour gap, ethical consumer behaviour will be facilitated, thereby bringing about social changes that shift our current consumption patterns and alleviate their detrimental impacts (Papaoikonomou and Alarcon 2017; Shaw et al. 2006).
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Alvesson, M. (1994), ‘Critical Theory and Consumer Marketing’, Scandinavian Journal of Management, 10/3: 291-313.
Arbuthnott, K. D. (2010), ‘Taking the Long View: Environmental Sustainability and Delay of Gratification’, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 10/1: 4-22
Assadourian, E. (2010), ‘Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability’, Journal of Macromarketing, 30/2: 186-191.
Auger, P. and Devinney, T. M. (2007), ‘Do What Consumers Say Matter? The Misalignment of Preferences with Unconstrained Ethical Intentions’, Journal of Business Ethics, 76/4: 361-383
Banister, E. N. and Hogg, M. K. (2004), ‘Negative Symbolic Consumption and Consumers? Drive for Self-Esteem: The Case of the Fashion Industry’, European Journal of Marketing, 38/7: 850-868
Bray, J., Johns, N. and Kilburn, D. (2011), ‘An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption’, Journal of Business Ethics, 98/4: 597- 608.
Brough, A. R., Wilkie, J. E., Ma, J., Isaac, M. S. and Gal, D. (2016), ‘Is EcoFriendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption’, Journal of Consumer Research, 43/4: 567-582.
Carrigan, M. and Attalla, A. (2001), ‘The Myth of the Ethical Consumer–Do Ethics Matter in Purchase Behaviour?’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 18/7: 560-578.
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Kilbourne, W., McDonagh, P. and Prothero, A. (1997), ‘Sustainable Consumption and the Quality of Life: A Macromarketing Challenge to the Dominant Social Paradigm’, Journal of Macromarketing, 17/1: 4-24.
Kilbourne, W. E. and Carlson, L. (2008), ‘The Dominant Social Paradigm, Consumption, and Environmental Attitudes: Can Macromarketing Education Help?’, Journal of Macromarketing, 28/2: 106-121.
Kollmuss, A. and Agyeman, J. (2002), ‘Mind the Gap: Why Do People Act Environmentally and What Are the Barriers to Pro-Environmental Behavior?’, Environmental Education Research, 8/3: 239-260.
Papaoikonomou, E. and Alarcon, A. (2017), ‘Revisiting Consumer Empowerment: An Exploration of Ethical Consumption Communities’, Journal of Macromarketing, 37/1: 40-56.
Park, H. J. and Lin, L. M. (2020), ‘Exploring Attitude–Behavior Gap in Sustainable Consumption: Comparison of Recycled and Upcycled Fashion Products’, Journal of Business Research, 117: 623-628
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White, K., Habib, R. and Hardisty, D. J. (2019), ‘How to Shift Consumer Behaviors to Be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework’, Journal of Marketing, 83/3: 22-49.
Session 5 & 6 are very important for this assignment
Theories and concepts:
- You need to discuss the whole topic in the context of the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP)
- The attitude behaviour gap
- Theory of planned behaviour
- Attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control
- Triple bottom line
- Consumer culture theory
- Consumerism paradigm
- Perceived consumer effectiveness
- Neutralization theory
- Ethical consumption
- Responsible marketing
- Marketing ethics and morality
- Basic perspectives
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Crane, A. and Matten, D. (2016) Business ethics: managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 4-43.
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Laczniak, G.R. and Murphy, P.E., (2006) ‘Normative perspectives for ethical and socially responsible marketing’. Journal of Macromarketing, 26(2), pp.154-177.
Wilkie, W.L. and Moore, E.S. (2007) ‘What does the Definition of Marketing Tell us about Ourselves?’ Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 26(2), pp.269–276.
Alvesson, M. (1994) ‘Critical theory and consumer marketing’. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 10(3), pp.291–313.
Hackley, C. (2009) ‘Parallel universes and disciplinary space: the bifurcation of managerialism and social science in marketing studies’, Journal of Marketing Management, 25(7-8), pp. 643–659. doi:10.1362/026725709X471541.
Wilkie, W.L. and Moore, E.S. (1999) ‘Marketing’s Contributions to Society’. Journal of Marketing, 63(4), pp.198–218.
Shankar, A., Whittaker, J. and Fitchett, J.A. (2006) ‘Heaven knows I’m miserable now’. Marketing Theory, 6(4), pp.485–505.
Sheth, J. and Sisodia, R. (2005) ‘Does Marketing Need Reform?’, Journal of Marketing, 69(4), pp.10-12.
Tadajewski, M. (2010) ‘Towards a history of critical marketing studies’. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(9-10), pp.773–824.
Arnould, Eric J. & Thompson, Craig J. (2005) ‘Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research’, Journal of Consumer Research, 31 (4): 868-882.
Kleine, R.E., Kleine, S.S. and Kernan, J.B. (1993) ‘Mundane Consumption and the Self: A Social-Identity Perspective’, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2(3), pp. 209–235. doi:10.1016/S1057-7408(08)80015-0.
Schamp, C., Heitmann, M. and Katzenstein, R. (2019) ‘Consideration of ethical attributes along the consumer decision-making journey’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 47(2), pp. 328–348. doi:10.1007/s11747-019-00629-x
Ahuvia, A. (2005) ‘Beyond the Extended Self: Loved Objects and Consumers’ Identity Narratives’, Journal of Consumer Research, 32, 171-184.
Belk, R.W. (2013) ‘Extended Self in a Digital World’. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), pp.477–500.
Holbrook, M.B. and Hirschman, E.C. (1982) ‘The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun’. Journal of Consumer Research, 9(2), p.132.
Session 5: sustainable and ethical consumption
Auger, P. and Devinney, T.M. (2007) ‘Do What Consumers Say Matter? The Misalignment of Preferences with Unconstrained Ethical Intentions’. Journal of Business Ethics, 76(4), pp.361–383.
Bray, J., Johns, N. and Kilburn, D. (2010) ‘An Exploratory Study into the Factors Impeding Ethical Consumption’. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(4), pp.597–608.
Kilbourne, W., McDonagh, P. and Prothero, A. (1997) ‘Sustainable Consumption and the Quality of Life: A Macromarketing Challenge to the Dominant Social Paradigm’. Journal of Macromarketing, 17(1), pp.4–24.
Chatzidakis, A., Hibbert, S. and Smith, A.P. (2007) ‘Why People Don’t Take Their Concerns about Fair Trade to the Supermarket: The Role of Neutralisation’, Journal of Business Ethics, 74(1), pp. 89–100. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9222-2.
Gonzalez-Arcos, C., Joubert, A., Scaraboto, D., Guesalaga, R., & Sandberg, J. (2021) ‘“How Do I Carry All This Now?” Understanding Consumer Resistance to Sustainability Interventions’, Journal of Marketing, 85(3), pp. 44–61. doi:10.1177/0022242921992052.
Scott, K., Martin, D.M. and Schouten, J.W. (2014) ‘Marketing and the New Materialism’. Journal of Macromarketing, 34(3), pp.282–290.
Session 6 : Marketing beyond profit
Kilbourne, W.E. and Carlson, L. (2008) ‘The Dominant Social Paradigm, Consumption, and Environmental Attitudes: Can Macromarketing Education Help?’, Journal of Macromarketing, 28(2), pp. 106–121. doi:10.1177/0276146708314586.
Peattie, K. and Peattie, S. (2009) ‘Social marketing: A pathway to consumption reduction?’ Journal of Business Research, 62(2), pp.260–268.
White, K., Habib, R. and Hardisty, D.J. (2019) ‘How to SHIFT Consumer Behaviors to be More Sustainable: A Literature Review and Guiding Framework’. Journal of Marketing, 83(3), pp.22–49.
Kotler, P. (2005) ‘The Role Played by the Broadening of Marketing Movement in the History of Marketing Thought’. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 24(1), pp.114–116.
Kotler, P. (2011) ‘Reinventing Marketing to Manage the Environmental Imperative. Journal of Marketing’, 75(4), pp.132–135.
Kotler, P. and Levy, S.J. (1969) ‘Broadening the Concept of Marketing’. Journal of Marketing, 33(1), p.10.