European Journal of Marketing: In Search of Sustainable and Responsible Consumption

European Journal of Marketing Special issue on “In search of sustainable and responsible consumption”

Deadline for submission is December 31, 2016

Consumer behaviour leading to a better outlook is often described with words like sustainable, ethical, responsible, environmentally- or socially-friendly (e.g., Carrington et al., 2010; Choi and Ng, 2011). Sustainable consumer behaviour is defined as awareness of the long-term consequences of an individual for the natural or social environment (Epstein, 2008). This type of behaviour is different from general consumer purchase behaviour since the instant, individual benefits are not the only benefits included in sustainable and/or responsible behaviour (Follows and Jobber, 2000). Nonetheless, the existing consumer practices are mostly unsustainable or weakly sustainable. Oftentimes consumers do not have sufficient knowledge, information, and/or willingness to pursue common sustainability goals, and it is not yet thoroughly understood what influences mainstream consumers to change their behaviour in order to accomplish these goals.

The field of sustainable consumption has been developing intensively in recent years. Due to the steadily evolving concept of sustainability and global systemic changes in markets and lifestyles, the sustainability concept has not been fully operationalized in practice and is replete with inconsistencies, contradictions and ambiguities. The most recent scientific debates, for example, extend the concept from the three commonly mentioned sustainability pillars (environmental, economic, and social) to axiological issues, i.e. the ethical and moral perspective (Bolis et al., 2014). Moreover, the concept of sustainable development is being changed by modern global market challenges, such as developing consumer attitudes and values, environmental issues, fighting poverty and pessimism, dealing with economic crises, etc. (Rudawska et al., 2013).

The literature on responsible and sustainable consumption promotes a pervasive idea that a “responsible consumer” is not a category that exists independently of exchange between businesses and consumers. Corporate and marketing communications create and transmit meanings for the sustainable consumption and behaviour of the “sustainable” and “responsible” consumer and thereby establish an interaction between businesses and consumers to become co-creators of sustainable consumption (Caruana and Crane, 2008). Integration and choosing the right ways and means of communicating on sustainability issues seem to be essential for achieving consumer involvement and engagement. Despite these efforts, there is a dearth of literature that specifically addresses how managed communications help produce a desirable, sustainable, and mindful consumer (Denegri-Knott et al., 2006).

The new era of research suggests that marketing can also be part of the solution, not only the root of environmental and social problems (Cronin et al., 2011). In order to develop effective sustainable marketing strategies, we need to better understand the sustainable strategy development process and potential outcomes that could enable companies to make better decisions as well as to explore interaction effects between consumers and companies in creating sustainable value. Currently, sustainable marketing strategies are researched mainly on the environmental level and disregard other dimensions of sustainability (Cronin et al., 2011, Maignan and Ferrell, 2004). Yet companies also have problems with equally managing the environmental, social, and economic/financial aspects of sustainability (Epstein et al., 2015). These conflicting goals can represent an important obstacle to the successful implementation of sustainable marketing strategies. Research opportunities include an investigation of the link between sustainable marketing strategies, the effectiveness of sustainable marketing strategies (Cronin et al., 2011), and the value that these strategies and outcomes bring to the consumer (McDonagh and Prothero, 2014), e.g. as profits and market share (Menguc and Ozanne, 2005), reputation (Miles and Covin, 2000), customer satisfaction (Luo and Bhattacharya, 2006) and/or increased stakeholder resources (Maignan and Ferrell, 2004).

Against this backdrop, the special issue solicits articles that advance our understanding of sustainable, responsible consumption. This special issue is designed with a view to widening the frontiers regarding sustainable consumer behaviour and sustainable marketing strategies. The selected papers will provide substantial advancement to existing theories but importantly advance conceptualisation of this important area of marketing. The following is an illustrative list of themes and questions that contributors may consider:

  • Discussing the key drivers and/or outcomes of sustainable and responsible behaviour.
  • Discussing issues influencing the interaction between businesses and consumers to become co-creators of sustainable consumption.
  • Identifying consumption values and goals that create gaps between intentions and sustainable behaviour (e.g., Baker et al., 2004; Ramirez et al., 2015).
  • Exploring how consumers can become more responsible.
  • Providing a comprehensive review on connecting all stakeholders in order to achieve sustainable responsible consumption (Ottman et al., 2006).
  • Investigating effective ways and means of communicating sustainability issues.
  • Exploring how companies are developing a more actionable agenda for sustainable growth with regard to sustainable responsible consumption.
  • Understanding of the sustainable marketing strategy development process and potential outcomes that could enable companies to make better decisions.
  • Examining the role of conflicting goals in enhancing/undermining the successful implementation of sustainable marketing strategies.
  • Applying diverse methodological approaches for the study of sustainable and/or responsible consumption from different perspectives (companies and consumers, using content analysis, microeconomic models, econometric analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, conjoint analysis and experiments).
  • Discussing sustainable and responsible consumption within Business-to-Business context.

Authors interested to submit to this special issue are requested to review the EJM author guidelines on the homepage at:

Also, authors should ensure that they select the appropriate special issue when submitting their papers through the scholar one submission site at:


Abdul-Muhmin, A. G. (2007), “Explaining consumers’ willingness to be environmentally friendly”, International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 237-247.

Baker, S., Thompson, K.E., Engelken, J. and Huntley, K. (2004), “Mapping the values driving organic food choice Germany vs the UK”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 38 No. 8, pp. 995-1012.

Bolis I., Morioka S. N. and Sznelwar L.I., (2014), “When sustainable development risks losing its meaning. Delimiting the concept with a comprehensive literature review and a conceptual model“, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 83, pp. 7-20.

Carrington, M. J., Neville, B. A. and Whitwell, G. J. (2010), “Why ethical consumers don’t walk their talk: Towards a framework for understanding the gap between the ethical purchase intentions and actual buying behaviour of ethically minded consumers“, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 97 No. 1, pp. 139-158.

Caruana, R. and Crane, A. (2008), “Constructing consumer responsibility: Exploring the role of corporate communications“, Organization Studies, Vol. 29 No. 12, pp. 1495-1519.

Choi, S. and Ng, A. (2011), “Environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability and price effects on consumer responses“, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol, 104 No. 2, pp. 269-282.

Cronin Jr, J. J., Smith, J. S., Gleim, M. R., Ramirez, E. and Martinez, J. D. (2011). Green marketing strategies: an examination of stakeholders and the opportunities they present. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(1), pp. 158-174.

Denegri-Knott, J., Zwick, D. and Schroeder, J. E. (2006). Mapping consumer power: an integrative framework for marketing and consumer research. European Journal of Marketing, 40(9/10), pp. 950-971.

Epstein, M. J. (2008), Making sustainability work, Greenleaf, Sheffield.

Epstein, M. J., Buhovac, A. R. and Yuthas, K. (2015), “Managing social, environmental and financial performance simultaneously“, Long Range Planning, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 35-45.

Follows, S.B. and Jobber, D. (2000),”Environmentally responsible purchase behaviour: a test of a consumer model”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 34 No 5/6 pp. 723 – 746.

Luo, X. M. and Bhattacharya, C. B. (2006), “Corporate social responsibility, customer satisfaction, and market value“, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 70 No. 4, pp. 1-18.

Maignan, I. and Ferrell, O. C. (2004), “Corporate social responsibility and marketing: an integrative framework“, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 3-19.

McDonagh, P. and Prothero, A. (2014), “Sustainability marketing research: past, present and future“, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 30 No. 11-12, pp. 1186-1219.

Menguc, B. and Ozanne, L. K. (2005),” Challenges of the “green imperative”: a natural resource-based approach to the environmental orientation–business performance relationship“, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 58 No. 4, pp. 430-438.

Miles, M. P. and Covin, J. G. (2000), “Environmental marketing: a source of reputational, competitive, and financial advantage“, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp- 299-311.

Ottman, J. A., Stafford, E. R. and Hartman, C. L. (2006), “Avoiding green marketing myopia: ways to improve consumer appeal for environmentally preferable products“, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, Vol. 48 No. 5, pp. 22-36.

Ramirez, E., Jiménez, F. R. and Gau, R. (2015), “Concrete and abstract goals associated with the consumption of environmentally sustainable products”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 No. 9/10, pp. 1645-1665.

Rudawska E., Renko S., and Bilan Y. (2013), „Sustainable development: concept, interest groups, benefits and global challenges“, International Journal of Academic Research, Part B, Vol. 5 No. 6, pp. 83-86.

Special Issue Editors:

Professor Vesna Žabkar
University of Ljubljana

Dr Mateja Kos Koklic
University of Ljubljana

Professor Seonaidh McDonald
Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Dr Ibrahim Abosag
SOAS University of London