Comparing the worldviews of marketing and sustainability.
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Sustainability has entered the vernacular of many disciplines and marketing seems to be no exception. However, the construct, both within and outside marketing, is still contested. Given the growing importance of sustainability, especially in providing a possible solution to current ecological, social, and economic issues, it is time for marketing to reflect on its role in perpetuating unsustainability and its role in establishing a sustainable society. More importantly, it is critically important that marketing academics reflect on how sustainability is, can, and should be integrated in theory and taught in marketing education.
This research goes beyond previous research which has proposed how the business school can further sustainability integration and instead focuses on the role of the individual as an inhibitor and challenger to institutional change. Reflecting on the literature and issues present in sustainability marketing scholarship and curriculum, two studies were conducted as part of this thesis. Study One, through eighteen qualitative semi-structured interviews with marketing academics interested in sustainability research and education, sought to gain an in-depth understanding of what it means to be sustainable within marketing (e.g. through theory, pedagogy) and why academics pursued their interest in sustainability marketing. In Study Two, the sustainability worldviews of students and faculty were measured through an international survey.
The findings of Study One found that participants sincerely cared about sustainability and sustainable education, which demonstrates that Education for Sustainability (EfS), as well as sustainability research, is heavily dependent on faculty themselves, their interpretation of sustainability, and their passion to incorporate sustainability. The formation of a sustainability worldview revealed various avenues by which academic participants gained a passion and appreciation for sustainability in their personal and professional lives. These avenues included, upbringing, including parents and friends; education, including presentations, books and writing theses; and work. This passion and sustainability interpretation resulted in various ways marketing and sustainability were integrated in theory and in teaching sustainability marketing.
This research found that marketing departments are facing issues of inertia, with department and college colleagues adhering to the profit maximisation paradigm (the dominant social paradigm (DSP) or market logic), a lack of faculty who have the knowledge and skills to teach sustainability, a focus on research goals according to the countries system at the expense of sustainability teaching and research, and a lack of commitment in leadership towards sustainability. These barriers exemplify the difficulty and challenge of competing institutional demands and logics, and the prominence of the DSP in faculty and marketing department culture. Without sustainability being seen as important by the academy, its relevance to marketing remains elusive, as merely an add-on, as a separate course in the marketing curriculum, and a specialisation in marketing research. It is also not seen as ‘true’ sustainability. To examine the possible barrier the sustainability worldviews of marketing faculty and students provided, as reflected in the interviews as well as previous research, Study Two investigated the beliefs, values and attitudes of the marketing academic community.
Study Two contributes to academic knowledge by creating a typology of marketing faculty and students in relation to sustainability beliefs, which can provide unique insight into the worldviews of sustainability. Of the four faculty worldviews identified, Passionates were the most environmentally concerned and critical of the current social and economic issues of the world, as well as businesses and marketing’s role in these issues, and represented 25.40% of the sample. Just under 5% of marketing faculty were described as Sceptics, who were not aware of any social, environmental and economic issues in society, especially not environmentally concerned, and support the status quo of economic growth, and business and marketing practices.
Similar clusters of worldviews were found for marketing students. Believers represent 24.48% of the student sample and are consistently critical (concerned) about environmental, economic and social sustainability issues, however they are ambivalent about technologies ability to solve environmental problems. While Doubters, the most sceptical of sustainability issues, represented 12.39% of the student sample, and exhibited low ecological values and were mostly ambivalent to environmental, economic and social sustainability issues.
In sum, there were positive, supportive, holistic and broad conceptualisations of sustainability by marketing faculty and students which may indicate that a supportive environment exists for sustainability in marketing education and research. However, faculty and students were sometimes ambivalent to sustainability issues in the world. Considering broad conceptualisations of sustainability, positive attitudes, and that more than 60% of faculty (and students) were aware and concerned about environmental, social and economic sustainability issues, questions remain about why only limited research and teaching has been done on the intersection between marketing and sustainability.