Seeking sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research

Iain Davies, Pierre McDonagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (SciVal)
73 Downloads (Pure)


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 interrogates why marketing is failing to address the challenge of sustainability, and identifies alternative approaches.
Design/methodology The stagnation 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 markets; 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 Implications This paper sets a new research agenda for the marketing discipline in our 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 description of the problem to making a conceptual contribution and setting a research agenda for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2911-2939
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number11
Early online date23 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


  • Sustainability


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