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Being social for social: a co-creation perspective

Marco Tregua (Economics, Management, Institutions, University of Naples “Federico II”, Naples, Italy)
Tiziana Russo-Spena (Economics, Management, Institutions, University of Naples “Federico II”, Naples, Italy)
Claudia Casbarra (Economics, Management, Institutions, University of Naples “Federico II”, Naples, Italy)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyse value co-creation in the context of ethical consumption by extending the focus to customers and their relational contexts. The paper unravels the core mechanism of the entire process of value co-creation in ethical consumption by drawing from engagement and awareness as emerging topics in value co-creation perspectives. By expanding the understanding of engagement and awareness as integrating mechanisms, the paper addresses the potential for these elements to shape the holistic consumer experience in an ethical context.


The authors chose to investigate consumer experience in the ethical context of Altromercato, the top seller of Fair Trade products in Italy. Following a phenomenological approach, the authors had the opportunity to gain knowledge on the lived experiences of customers as part of the Altromercato phenomenon. To depict the most important aspects of this experience, the authors chose a thematisation based on transcripts of in-depth interviews.


Drawing from the conceptualisation of the customer as a value co-creator, the work identified two main features in understanding co-creation in an ethical context – engagement and awareness – and two secondary ones as emerging from the empirical analysis – sharing and brand meaning. The two main topics acted as drivers to favour the depiction of our results through the following categories: first, trend following; second, believing; and third, supporting. Each category provides insight into the ways customers co-create.

Research limitations/implications

The study proves the inherent complexity and multidimensionality of customer interactions in an ethical context and supports the recent perspective of service scholars on the systemic and holistic nature of the value co-creation process.

Practical implications

Co-creation depends on roles and activities performed by customers at different touch points. This approach leads firms to strive for better understanding of the contexts shaped by the cultural, social, and relational dimensions.


This work also proves helpful to service research by clarifying how some critics have come to view value co-creation and resource integration as highly general and abstract concepts. Engagement, awareness, brand meaning, and sharing are identified in this work as the core mechanisms on which co-creation practices are based. The study supports even co-creation in ethical businesses as a values-laden concept that depends on the values and value experienced in context.



Tregua, M., Russo-Spena, T. and Casbarra, C. (2015), "Being social for social: a co-creation perspective", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 198-219.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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