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Irish Consumers Readiness for Sustainability Research Proposal

Info: 8639 words (35 pages) Example Research Project
Published: 19th Nov 2021

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Tagged: BusinessSustainability

There’s very good evidence that the average cat in Europe has a larger environmental footprint in its lifetime than the average African. You think that’s not an issue going forward? (Clay, 2010).


How do ‘we’ in the first world rationalise our constant deferral of doing anything much beyond token moments of ameliorative action to alleviate worsening problems grimly presented nightly on the news? Images of crises abound and the plight of ‘others’ has become increasingly immediate. Intensifying globalised consumerism, environmental degradation and a burgeoning global population squeezing increasingly scarce resources has cumulatively drawn the fate of the world into a slowly accelerating countdown of conscience. However, regardless of these crises – including global climate change, food insecurity, crises of exploitation, inequality, forced migration, poverty and malnutrition in the third world (James and Scerri, 2012) – life goes on in Ireland.

We have been faced with some of these issues for as long as we can remember so perhaps nothing has changed for us, maybe a feeling exists that when some of these problems begin to affect us here in Ireland that only then will we take some action. Is our awareness of these issues actually there or not? Are we in denial over some of the crises we are informed of just because they aren’t tangible to us?

The researcher intends to investigate in an effort to discover the awareness and attitudes of Irish consumers to assess their readiness to commit to a world where they should think about the consequences of their purchase decisions. In the process of questioning as many Irish consumers as possible to establish their perspective, the hope is that they are ready to commit and that their commitment has been underestimated.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction        5

1.1 Justification for the Research      5

1.2 Research Aims & Objectives      6 

2.0 Literature Review       7

2.1 Introduction       7

2.2 Definition of Sustainability     8

2.3 History of Sustainability and Sustainable Development 10

2.4 Current Crises – Drivers of the Sustainability Movement 12

2.5 Adoption of Sustainability     13 

3.1.1 Methodology – Design of the Study     16

3.1.2 Design of the Study       17 

3.2 Timeline – Gantt Chart       17 

4.0 Summary         17 

5.0 References        18

1. Introduction

Amidst relatively high levels of affluence and educational attainment by global standards, we are inclined to defer the radical consequences that would follow for our way of life should we take seriously our global crises (James and Scerri, 2012).

Meanwhile, Malin Head in Co. Donegal recorded their highest annual rainfall in 2015 since records began in 1885, virtually every part of Ireland in December 2015 recorded two or three times the average rainfall for that month (Hilliard, 2016){Hilliard, 2016, December brought double normal level of rain.}{Hilliard, 2016, December brought double normal level of rain.}. In the same month, the Phoenix Park in Dublin recorded temperatures 3.6C higher than the average; Knock Airport recorded in 2015 their darkest year in terms of sunshine hours since records began and it has been the worst year for flooding on record (Hilliard, 2016). So it seems the effects of climate change are being seen in Ireland and one can only speculate as to how our world will change if we as a global community remain on the same course.

1.2 Justification for the Research

Having conducted a preliminary review of the literature on sustainability, it was found that much was available. Regarding its application and adoption to individual consumers, however, it is apparent that most of the information sought in general is lacking. In an Irish context especially, not much literature of note was discovered. This is surprising considering the important nature of the topic and its profile as a contemporary issue. An obvious opportunity is apparent here by providing a snapshot of attitudes and answers to research questions that may make a useful contribution in the area. All research conducted thus far indicates an urgent need to accelerate the adoption of sustainable methods in all areas. While governments, commerce and education seem to all be in some early stage of adoption, consumers and the public seem to have fallen behind. Consumers are the central link to all the aforementioned groups (after all, everyone is a consumer) so attempting to accelerate their adoption of the sustainability movement through research to better understand them is justified.

1.3 Research Aims and Objectives

The aims of the proposed research are as follows:

  • To evaluate Irish consumers’ readiness to commit to sustainability through adopting sustainable living practices and behaviours.

The objectives of the proposed research are as follows:

  • Appraise the level of knowledge the Irish consumer has of sustainability, sustainable practices and behaviours.
  • Assess the level of Irish consumers’ comprehension of the drivers of the sustainability movement.
  • Estimate the current commitment of Irish consumers to sustainability, (sustainable practices and behaviours) in their daily lives and buying decisions.
  • Establish the extent of any resistance that Irish consumers may have towards living more sustainably and identify any motivating factors.

2. Literature Review

I am speaking of the life ofa man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children.

(Berry, 1991)

2.1 Introduction

In the following sections, the researcher will review and contrast literature which characterizes and explains the concept of sustainability, its origins and its relevance in contemporary Irish society.

Before advancing to further dialogue on sustainability, the researcher has had to dispel some latent attitudes dismissing the topic and clarifying at an early stage that it’s importance should never be marginalized without a full comprehension of it’s drivers. This means addressing traditional misconceptions about the topic being a ‘hippie’ or a ‘tree-hugger’ movement. The subject and its importance have only come into significant focus for this researcher in the past year and unfortunately, a low level of literature exists in an Irish context. Consequently, much of the following review will be work from selected European and American sources where realistic parallels may be drawn between the source country and Ireland in the contexts of society, environment, culture, and education.

In modern society, components in all our electronics are produced in Asia, our clothing is manufactured anywhere from Mexico to Lesotho and parts of our lunch are often produced in another latitude or hemisphere, the average student (and lecturer) enters the college classroom a walking manifestation of globalized consumption patterns (English Brooks, 2012).

How aware are students, for example, that the free promotional T-shirts handed out at the student union each year require hundreds of gallons of water to produce or that we can switch on a computer because somewhere in the world a mountain has been turned inside out to produce the computer’s component metals and the electricity to power it? The social and environmental effects that our consumer decisions have in other parts of the world can be tremendously difficult to trace, imagine, and control (English Brooks, 2012).

We are creating an increasingly globalized world so a more global approach is critical to sustain it, sustainability is not a goal according to Klahr (2012), but an endless process of constant implementation, assessment, and readjustment. The degree of damage that humanity has inflicted upon our planet precludes any end goal of sustainability because the efforts of many future generations will be to merely slow the pace of damage. Klahr (2012) states that every decision regarding sustainable life practices is a compromise, not a solution. This doesn’t refer to an individualised notion of compromise in terms of sacrifice, but rather to the simple truth that the daily actions of a world population of almost 7 billion human beings will always contain components that are detrimental to our planet: such is the inescapable impact of the human race. These temporal and substantive factors are the signposts of sustainability (Klahr, 2012).

Sustainability is not just about the environmental impact of our daily lifestyles, Lake (2012) suggests that if we consider sustainability as a banner that can encompass a number of causes, there exists an even better chance for success via a greater need to work together across these various areas. Sustainability is indeed, for example, more frequently associated with ecology, environmental studies, earth systems, ecological economics, and urban planning (Lake, 2012). For that reason, Moekle (2012) believes that it is our critical responsibility to address this topic together across disciplines.

2.2 Definition of Sustainability

Sustainable development (SD) has been defined as:

The management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.

(Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 1989)

The F.A.O.C. (2014) also contributes that sustainability means ensuring the rights and well-being of people without affecting the capacity of ecosystems to support life, or at the expense of others well-being. The concept encompasses environmental integrity, social well-being, economic resilience and good governance (Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 2014). Such is the breadth and significance of the topic, the subtle differences between the definitions above are symptomatic of a bigger problem where identifying areas of focus and stakeholders involved often takes away from progressive activity (Bartels, 2012). According to the Global Development Research Center (2011), there are more than 100 definitions of sustainability and sustainable development. The most commonly used is that proposed by the Brundtland Commission (1987), Our Common Future, more commonly known as the Brundtland Report. This United Nations document introduced the concept of sustainable development, describing it as:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs,

(World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).

This broad conceptualization accommodated initiatives of all disciplines and since the Brundtland Report was published, Bartels (2012) states that many refinements have been made to the term making it more and less exclusive and that authors have coined sustainable phrases to differentiate their books from others thereby further segmenting the meaning.

Beyond those areas just related directly to economic development, Parker (2012) notes that sustainability has emerged as a guiding ideal for understanding and addressing the systematic problems of overburdening. Such problems not only typically cross national borders, they also blur the lines between ecology and society, between culture and economics, and through various areas of political, professional, and academic expertise (Parker, 2012).

At the 2005 World Summit, it was identified that the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection encapsulated the three defining aspects of sustainable development (U.N. General Assembly, 2005, Henkel, 2015). Henkel (2015) adds that this view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses demonstrating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing.

Image result for 3 pillars of sustainable development

Fig: Pillars of Sustainable Development.

Source – https://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/akurry/files/2011/12/SDspheres.jpg

Amongst the sustainable development goals set out at the World Summit, they encompassed the eradication of poverty and hunger, achieving food security, improved nutrition, sustainable agriculture, energy, water management and sanitation, gender equality, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development (U.N. General Assembly, 2005)

Thus a broad diversity of areas are covered and according to Parker (2012), sustainability can therefore function as both a guiding ideal and as a regulatory concept in deciding the best way to do anything, from fueling our cars to constructing amenities to educating our young people because it highlights outcomes rather than the origins of our practices. It has proven to be a very powerful way to move policy discussions past the limited perspectives often imposed by politics, profession, and geography (Parker, 2012).

Henkel (2015) indicates that the three pillars of sustainability serve as a common tool for many sustainability standards and certification systems since its inception. A good example of this is in the food industry where standards which explicitly refer to the “triple bottom line” actually represent the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and UTZ Certification (Henkel, 2015).

2.3 History of Sustainability and Sustainable Development

The word ‘sustain’ is derived from the Latin sustinere, from sub – (from below) and tenere -(hold) (Arvidson, 2012, Henkel, 2015). To sustain, can mean to maintain, support, or endure and current ecological usage of sustainability adds the concept of efficiency (Henkel, 2015). To sustain is to cause to continue for an extended period of time, sustainability is the efficient support and continuation of something for a period of time (Arvidson, 2012).

There is strong historical evidence that ecological factors were key elements in the rise and fall of ancient civilizations (Mebratu, 1998). A comprehensive study of the different religious teachings, medieval philosophies, and traditional beliefs as the major repositories of human knowledge besides modern science reveals that most of them contain strong components of living in harmony with nature and with one another; this is the logical essence of what we, today, call sustainability (Mebratu, 1998).

The 1972 UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm which recognized the “importance of environmental management and the use of environmental assessment as a management tool” represents a significant step forward in development of the concept of sustainable development (DuBose et al., 1995). At around the same time of the Stockholm Conference, a group known as the Club of Rome gathered to look at the global environmental crisis and produced a comprehensive report on the state of the natural environment which emphasised that the industrial society was going to exceed most of the ecological limits within decades (DuBose et al., 1995). At last, the term “eco-development” appeared in the UN Environment Program (U.N.E.P.) review in 1978 and by then, it had become recognized that environmental and developmental ideas needed to be considered concurrently (DuBose et al., 1995).

The first major breakthrough in conceptual insight came from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.) who formulated the World Conservation Strategy in 1980 with the World Wildlife Fund (W.W.F.) for Nature and U.N.E.P (Parker, 2012)*. This was a major attempt at integrating the environment and development concerns into the umbrella concept of conservation. The strategy’s subtitle: “Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development” certainly highlighted the concept of sustainability.

Both Parker(2012) and Mebratu (1998) agree that since the 1980s, sustainability has more been in reference to human sustainability on planet Earth. Mebratu (1998) partly credits the publication of the 1980 World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature but both Mebratu (1998) and Parker(2012) concur that the current sustainability movement truly originated with the Brundtland Commission which was convened by the United Nations in 1983 and published in 1987 by the W.C.E.D. (World Commission on Environment and Development).

The U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (U.N.C.E.D.) which is also known as the “Rio Conference” or the “Earth Summit” was held in June 1992  where each U.N. member country was expected to produce a national report covering current national environmental and developmental aspects and draw up an action plan for promoting sustainable development within the national context (Mebratu, 1998). The U.N.C.E.D. led to the production of major international documents such as the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, and conventions on desertification, biodiversity, and climate change Mebratu (1998). Although a great deal of importance was attached to the documents and declarations signed at the conference, the most important legacy of U.N.C.E.D. was the very nature of the preparatory process. In most countries, this involved the participation of major stakeholders down to the grassroots level. This process brought the concept of sustainable development to every corner of the world (Mebratu, 1998).

2.4 Current Crises – Drivers of the Sustainability Movement

According to Parker (2012), that which is often regarded simply as an environmental crisis is really a complex system of interconnected problems primarily caused by human activities that overburden the natural carrying capacity of the earth.

Parker (2012) maintains that specific social conditions like economic, political, and cultural factors are almost always the initial link in any chain which drives a spiral of change resulting in physical environmental problems affecting the natural systems of the earth; changes to these systems which often in turn force sudden or dramatic backlash to the realm of human society.

Parker claims that it is now a commonly known fact that localized problems concerning air quality, water quality, soil depletion, species loss, habitat loss, food production, or energy supply are often related to one another in falling dominoes fashion (Parker, 2012). Climate change on a global scale, which was still largely a speculative hypothesis at the time of the Brundtland Commission’s meetings, has emerged as the most dramatic and symbolic case of this kind (Parker, 2012).

2.4.1 Overpopulation & increased consumption

Population times consumption has got to have some kind of relationship to the planet, and right now, it’s a simple “not equal.” Our work shows that we’re living at about 1.3 planets. Since 1990, we crossed the line of being in a sustainable relationship to the planet. Now we’re at 1.3. If we were farmers, we’d be eating our seed. For bankers, we’d be living off the principal, not the interest.

(Clay, 2010) 

Rising population

The world’s population increased from less than one billion in 1700 A.D. to 2.5 billion by the year 1950 and rose to 3.7 billion by 1970 (M.E.A., 2005, Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). In the subsequent 40 years, the global population grew to 6.9 billion in 2010 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012) representing an increase of 3.2 billion. UN population projections in 2017 indicate that this number could reach almost 10 billion in 2050, an approximate increase in the same 40 year time frame of an equally similar 3 billion people (U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs, 2017).

The world’s population today is growing by 1.1% per annum yielding an additional 83 million people annually (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012, U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs, 2017). It is projected to increase by more than one billion people to 8.6 billion by 2030, to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050 and to 11.2 billion by 2100 (U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs, 2017). The U.N. D.E.S.A. (2015) contended in 2015 that there is an 80% probability the global population will be 9.4-10 billion people in 2050 and reinforced that two years later by asserting a 95% probability that the global population will number between 9.4 and 10.2 billion people (U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs, 2017).

Nearly all of the expected population growth in the world between 2017 and 2050 will be in developing countries (Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 2010). More than half is anticipated to occur in sub-Saharan African countries like Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo and more than a third of that increase is predicted to be in Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Indonesia (U.N. Department of Economic & Social Affairs, 2017).

Rising incomes and consumption

According to Alexandratos and Bruinsma (2012), projections indicate that in the time period leading up to 2050 the world’s nations will become far richer with less pronounced relative income gaps between nations classified currently as being developed and those classified as still developing. While many developing nations will be reclassified in the future and won’t belong to this group, widespread poverty will still be prevalent in 2050 despite an average GDP increase per capita at that time of 80% reflecting a much wealthier world according to the projections employed (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). Of the forty five developing nations with GDP per capita of less than $1,000, however, just fifteen nations look as though they will still have GDP of less than $1,000 in 2050 with a significant portion of the population subject to undernourishment (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012).

All of these regions along with previously developed nations will see a marked rise in consumption levels even where there is an apparent sufficiency despite undernourishment figures (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). By 2050, 52% of the world population could live in nations where a national average of over 3000 kcal/person/day are consumed, that figure in 2012 was 28% (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). Similarly in 2012, there were 35% of the world’s population living in countries with an average daily diet of under 2500 kcal and that figure is projected to drop to 2.6% (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012).

Changing diets

While most developed countries have transitioned to livestock based diets, not all developing nations (for example – India) will be inclined to completely change to the levels of meat consumption associated with diets in western countries (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). For that reason, the increase in global food production that was needed to sustain populations in previous decades will not need to reach the huge growth levels to the same degree to meet the demands of the population increases this side of 2050 despite increases in per capita consumption and diet changes (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). Even so, Clay (2010) insists that sustainable development of food provision is imperative considering the estimates of population growth. It is projected that this growth and the changing diets in emerging countries – as a result of a population with increasing means – will affect a 70% increase in food demand which will need to be met (Standing Committee On Agricultural Research, 2011, Hutton, 2010).

2.4.2 Rising agricultural demand, land conversion & deforestation

In 2010, the F.A.O. similarly projected that over the subsequent 40 years the level of agricultural production would need to increase in output by approximately 70% to match expected demand from continued increases in both population and wealth including increases from 2010 levels of 2.1 billion tonnes of cereal to a required 3 billion and an increase of meat production from 2010 levels of 270 million tonnes to 470 million (Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 2010).

As the population grows, the continuing decline of arable land already in use per person in the world is often cited as a warning sign of impending problems (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). It is perceived that the underlying cause for this problem is the ever increasing demand for agricultural products that are facing finite natural resources like genetic potential, land and water (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012).

Land conversion

Over the centuries, arable cropland has swelled around the globe from some 3–4 million square kilometres in 1700 A.D  to 15–18 million square kilometers in 1990 and in large part at the expense of forests (Ramankutty et al., 2008). Likewise, grazing land has expanded from 5 million square kilometres in 1700 A.D. to 31 million square kilometres in 1990, mostly at the expense of natural grasslands (F.A.O. Economic and Social Dept., 2003, Ramankutty et al., 2008). Closer examination of habitat conversion indicate that temperate woodlands and forests have been affected the most up to the 1950s and since that time, the clear majority of land conversion has affected tropical forests and grasslands (M.E.A., 2005). For example, conversions in the late 1990s and early 2000s have been associated with the introduction of monocultures of oil palm, soybeans, and sugarcane for biodiesel and ethanol in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado; this along with oil palm in the Malaysian, Indonesian, Central and West African tropical forests have dominated conversions (Klink and Machado, 2005).

Hutton notes that bio-fuel crops have displaced food production in some areas leading to further deforestation (which will become more common as more governments legislate to increase the use of renewable fuels), but Hutton (2010) , Aiking and de Boer (2013) identify that food provision is the human activity with the single largest environmental impact. (Standing Committee On Agricultural Research, 2011)Hutton (2010) and the F.A.O. (2010) concur that natural resources are being depleted and climate change is pressing as agriculture is already responsible for 70% of global water use, conversion of 35% of terrestrial land area all while there is an urgent need to reduce deforestation, soil degradation, fossil fuel use, and the resulting biodiversity loss.

The F.A.O. (2010) assert their studies suggest such damage to ecosystems (if stopped or significantly slowed) could recover sufficiently that the natural resource base would be adequate to meet future demand on a global level. This does not allow for the prospect of nations experiencing bottlenecks potentially created where demand may exceed supply, where there are commercial import capacity limitations or where limited water or land resources could provide yield levels too low for national demand (Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 2010). Another prospect is that much of the proposed global land reserves that the F.A.O. deem eligible for conversion to arable land are either too important ecologically to be cultivated, too inaccessible or lacking in infrastructure in the countries where the land is situated or are not located in the countries where demand is greatest (Food and Agriculture Organisation Council, 2010).

In reality, land conversion for agricultural use has continued and does so predominantly in nations that combine growing needs for food and employment with limited access to the technology which may enable them to increase intensification of cultivation on the land that is already in use for agriculture (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012).


As sustainable development considerations remain under-represented in policy-making processes, the question and practice remain on how to best create a method within the policy process for ensuring that resource consumption and environmental pressures do not increase at rates which will eventually result in human and environmental catastrophes (Standing Committee On Agricultural Research, 2011).

Goggins and Rau (2015) stress that there are sustainability challenges in all stages of the food system from production, processing, distribution and retailing to consumption and waste disposal.Goggins and Rau (2015) outline that global food production is higher than ever and at a great cost as many environmental problems are exacerbated through current food system activities. A system perspective is essential to develop a sustainable food supply chain, so the agri-food sector needs to involve all the different stakeholders like farmers, manufacturing companies, policymakers, retailers, consumers, investors (Del Borghi et al., 2014). They must co-operate with an aim to implement sustainable agri-food production processes and environmentally-friendly products.

Another specific challenge facing sustainability science is the global increase in urbanization (Childers et al., 2014). Cities worldwide are facing many challenges, including exploding population, inadequate or failing infrastructure, as well as economic and environmental disruptions. Thus, understanding urban sustainability and improving the ability of policy-makers to achieve sustainable management are pressing needs of the 21st century.

2.5 Adoption of Sustainability

The sustainability concept (commonly known as going green) has entered into the culture since the 1990s. Governments and politicians have adopted sustainability as an explicit guiding principle. This is evidenced by the emergence of national branches of the Green Party as a political entity across the globe but the implications of sustainability have so far been most significant at the local level (Parker, 2012). Other than politics, non-profit and religious organisations now also seek ways to make their activities more sustainable; artists are experimenting with green materials, processes, and concepts; mainstream media outlets regularly report on sustainability trends and issues so there is hardly a segment of contemporary society, business, or culture that isn’t affected by the revolution in awareness represented by the concept of sustainability (Parker, 2012)

Higher education has not been left out of the green revolution either, driven by the environmental and social awareness on campuses as well as their own awareness of the sustainability movement in the commercial sector, Parker (2012) highlights that college administrators and facilities managers have been enticed to look seriously into sustainable practices. In 2005, as the number of colleges and universities seeking to introduce sustainable practices in their operations increased, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (A.A.S.H.E.) was founded to serve as an information clearinghouse helping to coordinate and strengthen campus sustainability efforts at regional and national levels, and to serve as the first North American professional association for those interested in advancing campus sustainability (Parker, 2012).

Klahr (2012) asserts that third level institutions have also begun to introduce sustainability into curriculums supported by on-campus initiatives and increased awareness. Business schools responding to the sustainability movement in the business community were noted by Klahr to be amongst the first to introduce coursework, certificates, and degree programs with a special focus on sustainability. Owens (2001) supports this with the assertion that as it becomes increasingly impossible to ignore escalating local and global environmental crises, educators in a number of fields will be obliged to make room for sustainability in their teaching and research (Owens, 2001).

Instructors in sciences like biology, natural resource management, engineering, and other ecology-influenced sciences were likewise amongst the first to include sustainability in the curriculum. Integration of sustainability themes outside of these areas in the higher education curriculum, however, have been slower and more fragmentary especially when compared to the rapid pace of change in the business and public policy arenas (Klahr, 2012). Parker (2012) concurs stressing that sustainability is a comprehensive concept that functions across many disciplines and argues that because it does not belong to any one area, it is not explicitly relevant to or validated by any of them. In spite of their considerable expertise at handling complex topics of fact and relationship in their particular fields, many faculty members shy away from teaching or critically assessing anything that looks like a more generalized value judgment about how we ought to live (Parker, 2012).

Businesses have also committed to sustainability according to Parker (2012), following concepts like the triple bottom line first and cradle-to-cradle manufacturing. Triple-bottom-line accountability reports not just on financial profits and losses but also on the social and environmental effects of the organisation’s activities while cradle-to-cradle manufacturing advocates designing products and processes so that waste is almost eliminated through increased efficiency and through careful planning for reuse of both the finished product and intermediate manufacturing materials (Parker, 2012).

Parker (2012) proposes that maybe the most visible manifestation of the sustainability movement in commerce is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (L.E.E.D.) green building certification system introduced in 2002 by the U.S. Green Building Council (U.S.G.B.C.). Over 29,000 commercial building projects had been registered worldwide in the L.E.E.D. directory as of October 2010 (Parker, 2012).

Lehner and Halliday (2014) suggest that one of society’s most promising ways to safeguard natural resources and eco-systems is by the introduction of sustainability as a core value and practice in business as. Lehner and Halliday (2014) argue the food retail industry is an example of an emerging ethics based value co-creation approach where known brands turn serve as a platform where all manner of ethical concerns and moral values into the creation of new products and markets can be integrated. Chkanikova and Lehner (2015) concur pointing out that governments, NGOs and academia all believe retailers to be in a position not only to turn their own operations sustainable, but also to remodel supply chains and influence consumers.

Considering the institutional market setup, promoting sustainability may be anticipated to be tricky and unprofitable for a firm (Lehner and Halliday, 2014). Bartels (2012) disagrees saying that presently, sustainability is a product to be marketed by everyone, from car companies to coffee shops. Howard (2012) believes our attitudes toward the environment are beginning to change and says our choices about food, consumption, transportation, and cultural and linguistic pluralism require new ways of thinking so that they will have to continue to change. This thinking and the requisite change in behaviour is difficult, often too difficult to perform on our own. We need help from outside, books and teachers who live and model the value system being fostered coming together to sustain and support the other (Howard, 2012).

Klahr (2012) outlines that sustainability is the overarching ethos that will govern the lives of this and future generations indicating that the present evidence suggests that we have no alternative. If this is the case, Klahr (2012) proposes making sustainable living practices the guiding force in our lives and that this reality trumps any geographical, political, economic, societal, cultural, or disciplinary identities that we have assumed. In this way, Klahr (2012) establishes that sustainability is both a topic and a way of life that exceeds any other categorization in the breadth and depth of its dimensions.

By accepting the redefinition of citizens as consumers, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming (Owens, 2001). However, if we can connect our location as consumers to global and environmental citizenship, we have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organising, lobbying and protesting (Owens, 2001).

The work left to do is summed up well by Bartels (2012) who outlined a case when 50 people were asked about sustainability in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2008 and of the  individuals polled, none knew the definition of sustainability, yet most considered it ‘‘too expensive.’’

3. Methodology

For the purposes of the research of this topic the following approaches are taken:

  • As comprehensive a literature review as possible was done on secondary sources of information to establish a base knowledge of the topic. Also, the topic chosen is one which has limited study done in the context of consumers and each additional relevant study discovered affected the research in some way as a compass to uncover gaps in knowledge. Research to find these secondary sources utilized facilities such as the C.I.T. library and online services provided through the C.I.T. student portal such as C.I.T. e-book collection, multi-search and online databases EBSCO, Science Direct and Emerald Insight.
  • References were recorded and reproduced in this document by using the End-Note referencing program.
  • A positivist view will be taken with this research. Positivism is:

a philosophical theory stating that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations. Thus, information derived from sensory experience interpreted through reason and logic forms the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge,

(Macionis and Gerber, 2010).

This paradigm approach is a fit with my intended primary research methodologies in that it uses large samples, data will be highly specific and precise, research will produce highly reliable quantitative data which will be testing some of the researcher’s hypotheses.

  • Primary research will be comprised of quantitative methods. Principally, it is intended to conduct a series of face to face surveys with members of the public. Sampling will be done through simple random sampling in locations like retail stores and large grocery multiples. The choice of location ensures that members of the target population will be reached: adult consumers, people with disposable income and a carbon footprint who make purchasing decisions. The sample size should be as large as possible to ensure a fair reflection of representation in the population. The target sample size is 500 consumers.
  • An online survey is also a consideration and while this does afford more access to consumer interviewees, it also limits the sample to people with access to the internet.

3.1 Design of the Study

Prior to conducting any research, the aims and objectives of the research will be brought back into focus to establish the best way to approach interviewees to gather the most truthful and revealing information. Considering the subject is a relatively sensitive one for some consumers, some discretion must be used to ensure no offence is caused throughout the questioning process. However, use of open and closed questions, likert scales and correctly sequencing questions should ensure best use of time and improve the quality of data.

3.2 Timeline – Gantt Chart

1st June 2016 – 1st September 2016:  Continuation of literature review.

1st September – 1st November 2016:  Design of questionnaires.

1st November – 1st February 2017: Conduct questionnaire.

1st February – 1st March 2017: Interpret and record researched data.

1st March – 1st August 2017:  Integrate into report, draw conclusions and complete.

1st August – 21st 2017:  Review available literature again before submission.

24th August 2017:   Submit research report. 

4. Summary

As global issues worsen, sustainability is more important now than it has ever been as both a contributory solution and forward thinking mindset. While commercial organizations seem to be taking increasing responsibility, it is hoped that the research proposed in this report will reveal consumers’ attitudes to adoption and be of significant value to people in this area who seek to accelerate change.

We need to begin to manage this planet as if our life depended on it, because it does, it fundamentally does, (Clay, 2010). 

5. References 

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