Communicating for Sustainable Consumption: Lessons from consumer-focused sustainability marketing in the food-product sector
Abstract: There is a growing demand from policy makers for businesses to help close the consumer intention-action gap for sustainable product choice and strengthen the green economy. Moreover, there is increased interest from consumers in brands that are transparent about their environmental impact. This is not least the case for the focus sector of this study, food products, an industry responsible for around a quarter of global GHG emissions. Communication directed at the public is understood to be an essential component in encouraging sustainable consumption. However, if marketing professionals are to disseminate environmental practices successfully, they need comprehensive tools and knowledge to do so. The purpose of this study is to contribute to an identified gap in the existing literature about what strategies are used, as well as challenges faced, by current sustainability communications pioneers in the in the food-product sector. The findings will help equip practitioners to successfully communicate their sustainability credentials to consumers and thereby increase sustainable consumption. The two research questions for this study are, 1. Which strategies are applied and challenges faced by leaders in consumer-focused sustainability communications in the food-product sector? 2. What can be learned from key examples of sustainability communications in the food-product sector about how brands encourage consumers to choose sustainable products? The questions are answered using a multiple case study approach. Five Swedish food-product brands were selected and interviews were carried out with key communications and sustainability practitioners at each. In addition, content analysis was performed on a piece of sustainability communications from each company. The findings reveal that brands must first define their company type in order to establish what communications tack will lead to increased sustainable consumption. Once this is established, there are approaches that are more suited to one company type than another. Ultimately a brand’s actions and actual sustainability profile must match up to what they communicate.
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