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Towards a theory of Sustainable Communication in Risk Society: Relating issues of sustainability to marketing communications

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Abstract:

There has recently been much discussion about a preferred ecological outcome for late capitalism to work toward, that is sustainable consumption. Related to this is a fundamental question, can business in Western industrial society (some now use the label risk society) be transformed into ecologically sustainable organizations? If we optimistically assume the answer to this question to be 'yes' how would these organizations communicate with the world in which they operate? This paper reports the author's application of a social constructionist approach to 'green' communicative acts and those responsible for them in an attempt to start answering such questions. In a qualitative empirical study of an environmental and social justice communications consultancy the social world of the people involved is explored as they interact with and communicative the issues with which they are concerned in risk society. A main research theme attempted to relate three issues of ecocentrism to what is known as marketing communications. In this respect the author has concentrated on a leading edge agency and four of its clients in the fields of animal, personal health and planet preservation. In the analysis the author lays the foundations for a new theory, Sustainable Communication, which can account for communicative acts, in any eco-discourse (Harris, 1996), that have issues of sustainability as their focal point. This process is then problematized for the reader in relation to capitalist organizations and the final discussion proposes that others, interested in this theoretical area, play with this notion of Sustainable Communication to help in its future development. In this respect the author proposes a fruitful allegiance between Critical Macromarketing and Sustainable Communication. Throughout the paper, especially in the section on 'building blocks', the author chooses to illustrate key points for the reader by drawing on data from the study.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1362/026725798784867699

Publication date: July 1, 1998

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