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

Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Abbreviations

ABC

Actual behavioural control

PBC

Perceived behavioural control

TPB

Theory of planned behaviour

TRA

Theory of reasoned action

References

  1. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ajzen, I. (2002). Perceived behavioural control, self-efficacy. Locus of control, and the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 665–683. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb00236.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ajzen, I., & Madden, T. J. (1986). Prediction of goal-directed behaviour: Attitudes, intentions and perceived behavioural control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22(5), 453–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alba, J. W., & Hutchinson, J. W. (1987). Dimensions of consumer expertise. Journal of Consumer Research, 13(4), 411–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alba, J. W., & Hutchinson, J. W. (2000). Knowledge calibration: What consumers know and what they think they know. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(2), 123–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Antonetti, P., & Maklan, S. (2014). Feelings that make a difference: How guilt and pride convince consumers of the effectiveness of sustainable consumption choices. Journal of Business Ethics, 124(1), 117–134. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1841-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arnold, S., & Fischer, E. (1994). Hermeneutics and consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(1), 55–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Arnould, E. J., & Thompson, C. J. (2005). Consumer culture theory (CCT): Twenty years of research. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), 868–882. doi:10.1086/426626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Arnould, E. J., & Thompson, C. J. (2007). Consumer culture theory (and we really mean theoretics): Dilemmas and opportunities posed by an academic branding strategy. In R. Belk & J. F. Sherry Jr. (Eds.), Consumer culture theory research in consumer behavior (Vol. 11, pp. 3–22). Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  10. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartiaux, F. (2008). Does environmental information overcome practice compartmentalisation and change consumers’ behaviours? Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(11), 1170–1180. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2007.08.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berg, L. (2007). Competent consumers? Consumer competence profiles in Norway. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 31(4), 418–427. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2007.00588.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bertrandias, L., & Vernette, E. (2012). What is interpersonal communication worth? Interpersonal calibration of knowledge and selection of recommendation sources. Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition), 27(1), 33–56. doi:10.1177/205157071202700102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bray, J., Johns, N., & Kilburn, D. (2011). An exploratory study into the factors impeding ethical consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 98(4), 597–608. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0640-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burgess, J., Harrison, C. M., & Filius, P. (1998). Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship. Environment and Planning A, 30(8), 1445–1460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carrigan, M., & Attalla, A. (2001). The myth of the ethical consumer—Do ethics matter in purchase behaviour? Journal of Consumer Marketing, 18(7), 560–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carrington, M. J., Neville, B. A., & 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, 9(1), 139–158. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0501-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carrington, M. J., Zwick, D., & Neville, B. (2016). The ideology of the ethical consumption gap. Marketing Theory, 16(1), 21–38. doi:10.1177/1470593115595674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Caruana, R., Carrington, M. J., & Chatzidakis, A. (2016). ‘‘Beyond the attitude-behaviour gap: Novel perspectives in consumer ethics’’: Introduction to the thematic symposium. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(2), 215–218. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2444-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chan, R. Y. K. (2001). Determinants of Chinese consumers’ green purchase behavior. Psychology & Marketing, 18(4), 389–413. doi:10.1002/mar.1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chatzidakis, A., Hibbert, S., & Smith, A. (2007). Why people don’t take their concerns about fair trade to the supermarket: The role of neutralisation. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(1), 89–100. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9222-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Chen, Y. S., & Chang, C. H. (2013). Greenwash and green trust: The mediation effects of green consumer confusion and green perceived risk. Journal of Business Ethics, 114(3), 489–500. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1360-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cherrier, H., Szuba, M., & Özçağlar-Toulouse, N. (2012). Barriers to downward carbon emission: Exploring sustainable consumption in the face of the glass floor. Journal of Marketing Management, 28(3/4), 397–419. doi:10.1080/0267257X.2012.658835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Clarkson, J. J., Janiszewski, C., & Cinelli, M. D. (2013). The desire for consumption knowledge. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(6), 1313–1329. doi:10.1086/668535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Connolly, J., & Prothero, A. (2008). Green consumption life-politics, risk and contradictions. Journal of Consumer Culture, 8(1), 117–145. doi:10.1177/1469540507086422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. d’Astous, A., & Legendre, A. (2009). Understanding consumers’ ethical justifications: A scale for appraising consumers’ reasons for not behaving ethically. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(2), 255–268. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9883-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Davies, A., & Elliott, R. (2006). The evolution of the empowered consumer. European Journal of Marketing, 40(9/10), 1106–1121. doi:10.1108/03090560610681032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. De Pelsmacker, P., & Janssens, W. (2007). A model for fair trade buying behaviour: The role of perceived quantity and quality of information and of product-specific attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 75(4), 361–380. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9259-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 182–185. doi:10.1037/a0012801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dolan, P. (2002). The sustainability of “sustainable consumption”. Journal of Macromarketing, 22(2), 170–181. doi:10.1177/0276146702238220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Eckhardt, G. M., Belk, R., & Devinney, T. M. (2010). Why don’t consumers consume ethically? Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 9(6), 426–436. doi:10.1002/cb.332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention and behaviour: An introduction to theory and research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  33. Goulding, C. (1999). Consumer research, interpretive paradigms, and methodological ambiguities. European Journal of Marketing, 33(9/10), 859–873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Graafland, J. J. (2003). Distribution of responsibility, ability and competition. Journal of Business Ethics, 45(1), 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Guiltinan, J. (2009). Creative destruction and destructive creations: Environmental ethics and planned obsolescence. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(Supplement 1), 19–28. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9907-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hassan, L. M., Shiu, E., & Shaw, D. (2016). Who says there is an intention-behaviour gap? Assessing the empirical evidence of an intention-behaviour gap in ethical consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(2), 219–236. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2440-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heath, T., O’Malley, L., Heath, M., & Story, V. (2016). Caring and conflicted: Mothers’ ethical judgments about consumption. Journal of Business Ethics, 136(2), 237–250. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2441-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hobson, K. (2003). Thinking habits into action: The role of knowledge and process in questioning household consumption practices. Local Environment, 8(1), 95–112. doi:10.1080/13549830306673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Iyer, G. (1999). Business, consumers and sustainable living in an interconnected world: A multilateral ecocentric approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 20(4), 273–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jackson, T. (2005). Motivating sustainable consumption. A review of evidence on consumer behaviour and behavioural change (pp. 1–153). A report to the Sustainable Development Research Network. Centre for Environmental Strategy Guildford, Surrey University of Surrey.Google Scholar
  41. Jacoby, J. (1984). Perspectives on information. Journal of Consumer Research, 10(4), 432–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jaffe, J., & Gertler, M. (2006). Victual vicissitudes: Consumer deskilling and the (gendered) transformation of food systems. Agriculture and Human Values, 23(2), 143–162. doi:10.1007/s10460-005-6098-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jahdi, K. S., & Acikdilli, G. (2009). Marketing communications and corporate social responsibility (CSR): Marriage of convenience or shotgun wedding? Journal of Business Ethics, 88(1), 103–113. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0113-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Johar, G. V., Maheswaran, D., & Peracchio, L. A. (2006). Mapping the frontiers: Theoretical advances in consumer research on memory, effect, and persuasion. Journal of Consumer Research, 33(1), 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Johnstone, M. L., & Tan, L. P. (2015a). Exploring the gap between consumers’ green rhetoric and purchasing behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 132(2), 311–328. doi:10.1007/s10551-014-2316-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Johnstone, M. L., & Tan, L. P. (2015b). An exploration of environmentally-conscious consumers and the reasons why they do not buy green products. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 33(50), 804–825. doi:10.1108/MIP-09-2013-0159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kollmuss, A., & 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. doi:10.1080/13504620220145401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kotler, P. (2011). Reinventing marketing to manage the environmental imperative. Journal of Marketing, 75(4), 132–135. doi:10.1509/jmkg.75.4.132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  50. Luchs, M. G., & Kumar, M. (2015). ‘‘Yes, but this other one looks better/works better’’: How do consumers respond to trade-offs between sustainability and other valued attributes? Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2695-0.Google Scholar
  51. Lurie, N. H. (2004). Decision making in information-rich environments: The role of information structure. Journal of Consumer Research, 30(4), 473–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McEachern, M. G., Warnaby, G., Carrigan, M., & Szmigin, I. (2010). Thinking locally, acting locally? Conscious consumers and farmers’ markets. Journal of Marketing Management, 26(5–6), 395–412. doi:10.1080/02672570903512494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mishra, H., Shiv, B., & Nayakankuppam, D. (2008). The blissful ignorance effect: Pre-versus post-action effects on outcome expectancies arising from precise and vague information. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(4), 573–585. doi:10.1086/591104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Moisander, J. (2007). Motivational complexity of green consumerism. International Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), 404–409. doi:10.1111/j.1470-6431.2007.00586.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moisander, J., & Pesonen, S. (2002). Narratives of sustainable ways of living: Constructing the self and the other as a green consumer. Management Decision, 40(4), 329–342. doi:10.1108/00251740210426321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Moisio, R., Arnould, E. J., & Gentry, J. W. (2013). Productive consumption in the class-mediated construction of domestic masculinity: Do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement in men’s identity work. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(2), 298–316. doi:10.1086/670238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Moraes, C., Carrigan, M., & Szmigin, I. (2012). The coherence of inconsistencies: Attitude-behaviour gaps and new consumption communities. Journal of Marketing Management, 28(1–2), 103–128. doi:10.1080/0267257X.2011.615482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Newholm, T. (2005). Case studying ethical consumers’ projects and strategies. In R. Harrison, T. Newholm, & D. Shaw (Eds.), The ethical consumer (pp. 107–124). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Norwegian Ministry of Environment (1994). Report on the Symposium on Sustainable Consumption, 19–20 January, Oslo, Norway.Google Scholar
  60. Olander, F., & Thøgersen, J. (1995). Understanding consumer behaviour as prerequisite for environmental protection. Journal of Consumer Policy, 18(4), 345–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Owens, S. (2000). Engaging the public: Information and deliberation in environmental policy. Environment and Planning A, 32(7), 1141–1148. doi:10.1068/a3330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  63. Press, M., & Arnould, E. J. (2009). Constraints on sustainable energy consumption: Market system and public policy challenges and opportunities. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 28(1), 102–113. doi:10.1509/jppm.28.1.102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Princen, T., Maniates, M., & Conca, K. (2002). Confronting consumption. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  65. Prothero, A., Dobscha, S., Freund, J., Kilbourne, W. E., Luchs, M. G., Ozanne, L. K., & Thøgersen, J. (2011). Sustainable consumption: Opportunities for consumer research and public policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 30(1), 31–38. doi:10.1509/jppm.30.1.31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 139–170. doi:10.1007/s10902-006-9023-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sanne, C. (2002). Willing consumers-or locked-in? Policies for a sustainable consumption. Ecological Economics, 42(1–2), 273–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schaefer, A., & Crane, A. (2005). Addressing sustainability and consumption. Journal of Macromarketing, 25(1), 76–91. doi:10.1177/0276146705274987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice. Why less is more. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  70. Seyfang, G. (2009). Green shoots of sustainability. The 2009 UK transition movement survey [online]. Norwich: University of East Anglia. Retrieved February, 15, 2016, from http://transitionus.org/sites/default/files/SurveyofTransitionintheUKjuly09.pdf.
  71. Shaw, D., & Black, I. (2009). Market based political action: A path to sustainable development? Sustainable Development, 18(6), 385–397. doi:10.1002/sd.415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Shaw, D., & Clarke, I. (1999). Belief formation in ethical consumer groups: An exploratory study. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 17(2), 109–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Shaw, D., Grehan, E., Shiu, E., Hassan, L., & Thompson, J. (2005). An exploration of values in ethical consumer decision making. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 4(3), 185–200. doi:10.1002/cb.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shaw, D., & Newholm, T. (2002). Voluntary simplicity and the ethics of consumption. Psychology & Marketing, 19(2), 167–185. doi:10.1002/mar.10008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sheth, J. N., Sethia, N. K., & Srinivas, S. (2011). Mindful consumption: A consumer-centric approach to sustainability. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39, 21–39. doi:10.1007/s11747-010-0216-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Shove, E. (2003). Converging conventions of comfort, cleanliness and convenience. Journal of Consumer Policy, 26(4), 395–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Soron, D. (2010). Sustainability, self-identity and the sociology of consumption. Sustainable Development, 18(3), 171–181. doi:10.1002/sd.457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Spiggle, S. (1994). Analysis and interpretation of qualitative data in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(3), 491–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Szmigin, I., Carrigan, M., & McEachern, M. (2007). Flexibility, dissonance and the conscious consumer. In S. Borghini, M. A. McGrath, & C. Otnes (Eds.), European advances in consumer research (8) (pp. 379–380). Duluth, MN: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  80. Tanner, C., & Wölfing, K. S. (2003). Promoting sustainable consumption: Determinants of green purchases by swiss consumers. Psychology & Marketing, 20(10), 883–902. doi:10.1002/mar.10101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Thøgersen, J. (1994). A model of recycling behaviour, with evidence from Danish source separation programmes. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 11(1), 145–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Thompson, C. J. (1997). Interpreting consumers: A hermeneutical framework for deriving marketing insights from the texts of consumers’ consumption stories. Journal of Marketing Research, 34(4), 438–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Thompson, C. J., & Hirschman, E. C. (1995). Understanding the socialized body: A poststructuralist analysis of consumers’ self-conceptions, body images, and self-care practices. Journal of Consumer Research, 22(2), 139–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Thompson, C. J., Locander, W. B., & Pollio, H. R. (1989). Putting consumer experience back into consumer research: The philosophy and method of existential-phenomenology. Journal of Consumer Research, 16(2), 133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Thompson, C. J., Locander, W. B., & Pollio, H. R. (1990). The lived meaning of free choice: An existential-phenomenological description of everyday consumer experiences of contemporary married women. Journal of Consumer Research, 17(3), 346–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Thompson, C. J., Pollio, H. R., & Locander, W. B. (1994). The spoken and the unspoken: A hermeneutic approach to understanding the cultural viewpoints that underlie consumer’s expressed meanings. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(2), 432–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Wallendorf, M., & Belk, R. W. (1989). Assessing trustworthiness in naturalistic consumer research. In E. C. Hirschman (Ed.), Interpretive consumer research (pp. 69–84). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  88. White, R. W. (1971). The urge towards competence. The American Journal of Occupational Theory, 25(6), 271–274.Google Scholar
  89. Young, W., Hwang, K., McDonald, S., & Oates, C. J. (2010). Sustainable consumption: Green consumer behaviour when purchasing products. Sustainable Development, 18(1), 20–31. doi:10.1002/sd.394.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations