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Sustainability News

May 25, 2021

School of Sustainability assistant professor Tyler DesRoches, sustainability fellow Daniel Fischer and their co-authors have published a new paper, Sustainable consumption communication: A review of an emerging field of research, in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

According to Fischer, the paper provides a review of sustainable consumption communication (SCC) as a field of research. Analyzing 67 papers, the authors describe 4 types of SCC research that conceptualize and relate the terms very differently.

The abstract follows.

Communication plays an important role in promoting sustainable consumption. Yet how the academic literature conceptualizes and relates communication and sustainable consumption remains poorly understood, despite growing research on communication in the context of sustainable consumption. This article presents the first comprehensive review of sustainable consumption communication (SCC) research as a young and evolving field of scholarly work. Through a systematic review and narrative synthesis of N = 67 peer-reviewed journal articles, we consolidated the research conducted in this field into four distinct types: communication as an approach to (1) behavior change, (2) self-empowerment, (3) systems change, and (4) reflection on current discourses and practices around sustainable consumption. Our findings reveal that most journal articles focus on incremental changes in individual consumer behavior (“weak” sustainable consumption) and employ communication as an intervention tool with little reference to communication science and theory. They also reveal integration challenges arising from the disciplinary diversity and fragmentation characteristic of the research field. Future research should develop shared frameworks and terminology, diversify its foci, synthesize relevant evidence, and innovate critical perspectives that go beyond one-way business-to-consumer communication. The results of our review can serve researchers engaged in sustainable consumption communication to better systematize their efforts and contribute more effectively to changing systems of consumption in the future.