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Seeking sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research

Iain Davies (School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)
Caroline J. Oates (Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Caroline Tynan (Nottingham University Business School, Nottingham, UK)
Marylyn Carrigan (Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Katherine Casey (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)
Teresa Heath (School of Economics and Management, University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal)
Claudia E. Henninger (Department of Materials, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Maria Lichrou (Department of Management and Marketing, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Pierre McDonagh (School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)
Seonaidh McDonald (Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Sally McKechnie (Business School, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Fraser McLeay (Management School, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Lisa O'Malley (Department of Management and Marketing, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick Limerick, Ireland)
Victoria Wells (Management School, University of York, York, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 23 September 2020

Issue publication date: 23 September 2020




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 aims to interrogate why marketing is failing to address the challenge of sustainability and identify alternative approaches.


The constraint 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 marketplaces; 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.


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 limitations/implications

This paper sets a new research agenda for the marketing discipline in 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.


The paper provides thought leadership in marketing and sustainability as befits the special issue, by moving beyond the description of the problem to making a conceptual contribution and setting a research agenda for the future.



Davies, I., Oates, C.J., Tynan, C., Carrigan, M., Casey, K., Heath, T., Henninger, C.E., Lichrou, M., McDonagh, P., McDonald, S., McKechnie, S., McLeay, F., O'Malley, L. and Wells, V. (2020), "Seeking sustainable futures in marketing and consumer research", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 11, pp. 2911-2939.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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