Shopping for tomorrow: promoting sustainable consumption within food stores
Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to offer an exploratory case study of how the UK's top ten food retailers are communicating sustainable consumption agendas to their customers within stores. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper begins with a discussion of the growing awareness of the role that retailers, and more particularly food retailers, can play in promoting sustainable consumption. This is followed by a short literature review of current thinking on sustainable consumption. Information obtained from two simple "walk through/visual observation and information collection" surveys conducted within the largest store operated by each of the top ten food retailers within the towns of Cheltenham and Gloucester, UK, provided the empirical material for the case study. The paper concludes with some reflections on how sustainable consumption fits into the large food retailers' business models. Findings ‐ The survey revealed that, while the UK's top ten food retailers were providing customers with some information on sustainable consumption, the dominant thrust of marketing communication within stores was designed to encourage consumption. More generally, the paper concludes that, at best, the UK's leading food retailers are pursuing a weak model of sustainable consumption and that their definitions of, and engagement with, sustainable consumption is driven as much by commercial imperatives as by commitments to sustainability. Originality/value ‐ This paper provides an accessible review of the extent to which the UK's leading food retailers are communicating sustainable consumption agendas to their customers within stores and as such it will be of value to academics, practitioners, consumer organisations and policy makers interested in the role retailers can play in promoting sustainable consumption.
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