Consumers as ecological citizens in clothing markets

Annu Markkula

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The overall purpose of this study is to participate in the efforts to rethink the individualistic, market-based conceptualisations of consumers that are prevalent in sustainability and environmental policy-related social marketing. Contemporary academic discussions and policy frameworks have both given consumers a central role in the advancement of sustainable development. This dominant approach has, however, been criticized for relying on individualistic premises and it has been suggested that sustainable development calls for a more collective approach. A substantial debate, however, remains over the particular shortcomings of the prevalent approach and the potential of the concept of citizenship to remedy them. Against this background emerges the particular aim of this study: to examine the analytic utility of the literature of ecological citizenship for developing a better understanding of consumers as targets sustainability related social marketing. Drawing on the literatures of social marketing, social sciences, environmental politics and cultural consumer research, the study develops an alternative theoretical and methodological framework, which is then applied in the empirical analysis to shed more light on the possible field of action available for consumers as ecological citizens in contemporary culture. For that end, interviews were carried among 18 young professional adults in Helsinki, Finland, on clothing markets and consumption. The interview material is analysed by applying a non-individualistic, mesolevel focused discourse analytic approach, which draws upon the analytic tools of discourse, interpretative repertoire and subject position. The study identifies four interpretative repertoires through which consumers make sense of their roles and responsibilities in the pursuit of sustainable development. The repertoires identified focus on marketplace conduct complexities, economically reasonable practices, making informed efforts and social and personal taste. They illustrate the diversity and complexity of the positions available for consumers as ecological citizens as well as the multiplicity of moral orders circulating in contemporary market-mediated environments. The primary theoretical contributions of this study are to the literature in the fields of social marketing and cultural consumer research. With regard to social marketing, the study argues that the utility of the notion of ecological citizenship remains narrow in the absence of adequate attention to the constitution of the consumers’ possible field of action. In terms of cultural consumer research, the study provides an alternative, non-individualistic discourse theoretic approach. The findings of the study have practical importance for social marketing practitioners in sustainability and environmental policy-related fields and for business practitioners in clothing industries as well as in other consumer goods industries seeking solutions to sustainability challenges.
Translated title of the contributionConsumers as ecological citizens in clothing markets
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Moisander, Johanna, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4064-6
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • vaatetusteollisuus
  • muoti
  • kulutus
  • kuluttajakäyttäytyminen
  • kestävä kehitys
  • ekologia
  • design management
  • social responsibility
  • marketing
  • social marketing


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