Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 759–779 | Cite as

“It’s Not Easy Living a Sustainable Lifestyle”: How Greater Knowledge Leads to Dilemmas, Tensions and Paralysis

  • Cristina LongoEmail author
  • Avi Shankar
  • Peter Nuttall
Original Paper


Providing people with information is considered an important first step in encouraging them to behave sustainably as it influences their consumption beliefs, attitudes and intentions. However, too much information can also complicate these processes and negatively affect behaviour. This is exacerbated when people have accepted the need to live a more sustainable lifestyle and attempt to enact its principles. Drawing on interview data with people committed to sustainability, we identify the contentious role of knowledge in further disrupting sustainable consumption ideals. Here, knowledge is more than just information; it is familiarity and expertise (or lack of it) or how information is acted upon. We find that more knowledge represents a source of dilemma, tension and paralysis. Our data reveal a dark side to people’s knowledge, leading to a ‘self-inflicted sustainable consumption paradox’ in their attempts to lead a sustainable consumption lifestyle. Implications for policy interventions are discussed.


Actual behavioural control Attitude-behaviour inconsistencies Barriers to sustainability Consumer compromises Consumer knowledge Sustainable consumption 



Actual behavioural control


Perceived behavioural control


Theory of planned behaviour


Theory of reasoned action


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université de Lille - SKEMA Business School, MERCUR Research CenterRoubaixFrance
  2. 2.School of ManagementUniversity of BathBathUK
  3. 3.Stockholm University Business School, Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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