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2014/2015  KAN-CCMVV5080U  Consumer dilemmas in choosing sustainable consumption

English Title
Consumer dilemmas in choosing sustainable consumption

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Course period Spring
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 70
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Niels Kornum - Department of Marketing (Marketing)
Administrator: xx (yy.marktg@cbs.dk)
Main academic disciplines
  • Business Ethics, value based management and CSR
  • Marketing
Last updated on 20-10-2014
Learning objectives
At the end of the course the excellent student is expected to be able to:

1. Discuss theories on the influence of socio-cultural, cognitive, and emotional factors related to consumer conceptualizations and behavior when performing sustainability oriented activities.
2. Based on the theories in objective 1,explain the various factors that influence the complexity of the attitude and behavior gap in sustainable consumption among consumers.
3. Identify and critically reflect on the pros/cons as well as possible inherent contradictions (trade off values) of models, concepts and theories when applied to specific issues, especially when applied to issues presented in the miniproject.
Course prerequisites
A basic knowledge and understanding of marketing and consumer behavior is a good preparation for this course
Prerequisites for registering for the exam
Number of mandatory activities: 1
Consumer dilemmas in choosing sustainable consumption:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam based on written product

In order to participate in the oral exam, the written product must be handed in before the oral exam; by the set deadline. The grade is based on an overall assessment of the written product and the individual oral performance.
Individual or group exam Group exam, max. 4 students in the group
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
20 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Grading scale 7-step scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period May/June
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content and structure

The need for a strong consumer commitment to sustainability seems more and more urgent as climate change is becoming more and more visible and resource scarcity more and more pronounced. As the UN level, the political level and the majority of companies are reluctant to act, even more focus and attention is drawn to the consumer’s role in promoting sustainability.
Interestingly, many consumers express support for sustainable development, political consumption and social responsibility, yet when it comes to actual initiatives very few consumers follow thru. One type of culprit for the gap between attitude and behavior are socio-psychological drivers (e.g., proximity, kinship, tangibility, costs, social acceptance), which make the decision-making process for the individual complex and often contradictory. This would be the case, when consumers have to evaluate the pros/cons of driving far to buy organic food, travel by air to pursue ecotourism, drive back and forth in a CO2 emitting car to recycle glass, support animal welfare yet consuming meat from slaughterhouse cattle, etc. To understand this gap we will also deal with how consumer choice may be affected by potential conflicts between cultural norms, societal expectations, personal values, and/or everyday budgetary constraints. In line with this, the core themes of the course are: consumer perspectives on social responsibility, sustainable development, and political consumption (e.g., Fair Trade, climate changes).Thus, if marketers want to promote sustainable and responsible buying, it is important that they are equipped with a sufficient understanding of  how, why, and when the consumer attitude-behaviour gap may occur. This course will examine the (hyper)complex decision-making processes of the consumers in accordance with this gap. The final lecture will focus on to what extent consumer's interaction with other stakeholders can promote sustainable consumption and what marketing's (and marketing communications) role might be.
The course will be based on consumer behavior theories and supplemented with recent studies relating to consumer culture and consumer psychology, (e.g., social cognitivetheory)
The main topics of the course are:

  • Sustainable consumption, including the gap between consumer buying intention and actual purchase of sustainable products/services.
  • Hyper complex consumer decision-making processes
  • Consumer culture and the political consumer
  • How consumer culture and individual decision-making processes interact
  • The use or meaning of labels, such as Fair Trade, Organic, Ecological, Climate Friendly, Sustainability
  • Key stakeholders’ and marketing's role in promoting sustainability
Teaching methods
Teaching will be based on lectures with dialogues, mini exercises, use of voting (clickers), along with topical lectures by guest speakers from selected companies. The miniproject will play a core role in the learning process in the course and it is mandatory that each group collects primary data for the miniproject in the course. The methods used in the miniprojects gives the possibility of making the miniproject a good pilot study and preparation for a later master thesis within the overall field of sustainable consumption
Expected literature

Gifford, R. (2008). The Dragons of Inaction. Psychological Barriers That Limit Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. American Psychologist, Vol. 66, No. 4, 290–302.
Ringberg, T. and Reihlen, M. (2008).Towards a Socio-Cognitive Approach to Knowledge Transfer. Journal of Management Studies 45:5, 912-935.
Anja Kollmuss & Julian Agyeman (2002) Mind the Gap: Why do
people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?,
Environmental Education Research, 8:3, 239-260
Arnould, E.J. & Thompson, C..J. (2005): “Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research”, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 868-882
Sestoft, C.P. (2003): “White Rabbits and Political Consumers”, in: Morsing, Mette and Thyssen, Christina (eds.)(2003): “Corporate values and Responsibility: The Case of Denmark”, Copenhagen, Samfundslitteratur. pp.299-307

Craig J Thompson, Eric Arnould and Markus Giesler(2013) Discursivity, difference, and disruption: Genealogical reflections on the consumer culture theory heteroglossia. Marketing Theory 13(2), 149–174.
McGregor, Sue L.T. (2006), Understanding consumers’ moral consciousness. International Journal of Consumer Studies Vol. 30, No. 2, March , pp164–178
Jocz, Katherine E and Quelch, John A. (2008): “An Exploration of Marketing’s Impact on Society: A Perspective linked to Democracy”, American Marketing Association, Vol 27(2), pp. 202-206
Van Doorn and Verhoef (2010):Construction and Explanation of Sustainable Purchasing Behavior in the Dutch Food Market. Proceedings EMAC conference, Copenhagen Business School
CONNOLLY & SHAW (2006), Identifying fair trade in consumption choice, JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC MARKETING, Vol. 14, pp. 353–368
Smith, N.Craig, Drumwright, Minette E., and Gentile, Mary C. (2010): “The New Marketing Myopia”, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 29(1), pp. 4-11
Kucuk, S.U. 2008, "Negative Double Jeopardy: The role of anti-brand sites on the internet", Journal of Brand Management, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 209-222.
Luce, Mary Frances (1998): "Choosing to Avoid: Coping with Negatively Emotion-Laden Consumer Decisions". In: Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 24, pp. 409-433
Hansen, T and Thomsen, T.U. (2006): Supra-complex decision making. A framework for understanding the choice behavior of the modern food consumer. Working Paper no. 1, 2006. Department of marketing, Copenhagen Business School
Soron (2010): Sustainability, Self-Identity and the Sociology of Consumption, Sustainable
Development, 18, 172–181
Halkier, Bente (2001): Consuming Ambivalences – Consumer Handling of Environmentally Risks in
Food”, in: Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol 1, no.2
Jones, T. M. (1991) “Ethical decision making by individuals in organisations: An issue-contingent model” Academy of Management Review, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 366-395
Teisl et al (2008) Non-dirty dancing? Interactions between eco-labels and consumers, Journal of Economic Psychology 29, 140–159
Thøgersen (2000): Psychological Determinants of Paying Attention to Eco-Labels in Purchase Decisions: Model Development and Multinational Validation, Journal of Consumer Policy 23: 285-313
Thøgersen (2011) Green Shopping: For Selfish Reasons or the Common Good? American Behavioral Scientist 55(8) 1052– 1076
Varey, Richard J. (2010), “Marketing Means and Ends for a Sustainable Society: A Welfare Agenda for Transformative Change”, Journal of Macromarketing, 30 (2), pp. 112-126
Trentmann, Frank (2007): “Citizenship and consumption”, Journal of Consumer Culture, Vol 7(2), pp. 147-158
Walck et. al. (2010): Information demand and willingness to pay for eco friendly shoes. Proceedings EMAC conference, Copenhagen Business School

Last updated on 20-10-2014