Martina Topic, Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University
Ben Mitchell, The Retail Institute, Leeds Beckett University
THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY: POLICY AND INDUSTRY RESPONSES AND PUBLIC DISCOURSES
CALL FOR CHAPTER PROPOSALS
Consumer recycling behaviour and the tendency for this complex issue to be simplified in some media channels, presents a communication challenge for businesses who all believe that they have a positive message to convey. Criticisms of plastic packaging by the public and media have arguably led to an unbalanced debate on which are the most effective packaging solutions for the environment as a whole. The waste management infrastructure, food waste (from poor quality packaging), the sourcing of raw materials for packaging and price and transportation implications are all relatively under-reported. This can lead to a lack of understanding of why decisions are made or not made as stakeholders from different perspectives may be unaware of the technical, economic or social barriers to pro-environmental innovation.
Previous research has shown a lack of awareness among consumers and a tendency to favour the convenience attributes of packaging over others, including sustainability (e.g. Lindh et al, 2016). The Retail Institute’s previous work on packaging attributes can feed into further insight into the way consumers respond to packaging design. This knowledge will then be enhanced through this research with a greater understanding of specific environmentally friendly features and the presentation of pro-environmental information on packs through labels and logos.
The book will also build on ideas relating to sustainability and CSR communication to investigate public perceptions of packaging and the activities of the retail packaging supply chain. Growing media and government interest along with strengthening public opinion on the environmental impact of packaging has increased the pressure on retailers, brand owners and packaging suppliers to improve the sustainability of their product offer. Moreover, they need to communicate the benefits of their products and other pro-environmental activities within a context of the multiple, conflicting and evolving perspectives of diverse stakeholders. Businesses may struggle because of a lack of trust in their CSR communication due to a perception of them being inauthentic and focused on profits only (e.g. Pompper, 2015). Therefore, they need to communicate in such a way that overcomes that lack of trust.
The study will use models taken from literature on CSR communication (e.g. Tench, Sun and Jones, 2014; Ihlen, May and Bartlett, 2014) as a guide for investigating strategies and developing a theoretical understanding of the processes involved. For example, Ihlen et al highlight the importance of recognising the complexity generated by organisations, dialogue with stakeholders, the social construction of ethics and the task of maintaining transparency while selecting the appropriate information to share. Further conceptualisations of complexity could also be used, such as Wicked Problems (Rittel and Webber, 1973; Conklin, 2006) and a realist complexity checklist (Pawson, 2013).
Such concepts and models can inform the analysis of industry case studies and a survey of consumer experiences of retail in relation to the environment. By bringing together these perspectives, along with analysis of policy documents and media coverage, an overall picture can be presented of views and communication strategies that exist within the area of environmentally conscious consumerism, framed within models of CSR communication and complexity.
We already have several authors who agreed to provide chapters on sustainability policies. However, to complete the book we are looking for additional chapters (both from the UK and international) from following fields,
Policy and Political context
Retail policy and practice (non-UK case studies)
Packaging and the media (UK and international)
Public perceptions and attitudes – generational differences (non-UK case studies)
Communications and Public Relations (non-UK perspectives)
Media coverage of sustainability and retail sustainability policies. These can be the role of the national press or TV in pushing for sustainability (UK and international)
Analysis of BBC’s awarded show Planet Earth II
Social media and consumer driven sustainability activities
Activism from environmental charities and pressure groups
Abstracts should be sent to Dr Martina Topic at M.Topic@leedsbeckett.ac.uk and Ben Mitchell at B.Mitchell@leedsbeckett.ac.uk by 15 April 2018. Decisions will be sent by 15 May 2018 and full papers are due by 15 September 2018. Papers should not be longer than 7000 words excluding references and footnotes and authors should use British spelling in writing their chapters. The required citation style is APA.