Sustainability, Macromarketing, Systems thinking, Food system
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate marketing’s response to environmental decline and the call for sustainability. Methodology: A review was undertaken of the literature relating to marketing and the environment from the late 1960s, and reports relating to the global sustainability agenda. Findings: It was found that global warming and global resource depletion are a direct consequence of consumption and production in developed countries since the Industrial Revolution, which was driven by Marketing. Marketing’s response has been dominated by the micro/managerial imperative whose contribution of ‘green products’ for ‘green consumers’ has had little or no impact on reducing carbon emissions or consumption. Social Marketing has made some progress in motivating consumer behaviour towards ‘green’ consumption and there is evidence of momentum building among a small percentage of consumers in developed nations towards voluntary simplicity, sharing and anti-consumption. However, it is ‘Systems thinking’ at the heart of Macromarketing that is in line with the thinking of global policy-makers. They acknowledge that the significant improvements in environmental efficiency required to address environmental challenges may only be possible through the creation of radical new systems from substantial reconfigurations of existing systems, to frame and constrain production and consumption practices. Limitations: The stated objective required that a broad review of the literature be undertaken, which does not allow for any aspect to be investigated in great depth. Implications: The implications for marketers are clear: it is time for us to acknowledge the consequences of our ‘micro’ actions at a macro level; we can no longer behave as if we have access to unlimited resources to satisfy unlimited desires; we must demand that externalities are internalised and that products that damage the environment are no longer tolerated. Contribution: This paper offers a synthesis of the marketing literature relating to the environment, clarifying the difference between the micro and macro marketing perspectives.