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The coherence of inconsistencies: Attitude–behaviour gaps and new consumption communities

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Despite the growing success of well-marketed environmentally friendly products, there remains a gap between consumers' positive attitudes towards green issues and products, and their inconsistent and often conflicting consumption behaviour. Indeed, this is a challenge for social marketers seeking to advance the sustainability agenda. Therefore, this study problematises what has been conceptualised as attitude–behaviour gaps (Boulstridge & Carrigan, 2000), and explores how groups of consumers have re-construed such practices and their meanings through the formation of New Consumption Communities (Szmigin, Carrigan, & Bekin, 2007). Multi-sited ethnographic findings illustrate the social processes through which ethical and green forms of consumption are established and normalised. Findings also stress the importance of normative and habitual reframing through ‘ethical spaces’ (Barnett, Clarke et al., 2005) in establishing and maintaining increased consistency in participants' consumption meanings, behaviours, and goals. Thus we re-frame attitude–behaviour gaps as coherent inconsistencies, which allows for a move away from solely trying to explain and change individual consumer behaviour, to identifying how suitable upstream and downstream (Verplanken & Wood, 2006) approaches and policies can be used to facilitate more sustainable forms of consumption.

Keywords: behavioural inconsistency; consumption; social marketing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Birmingham, UK

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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