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15 March 2021
Journal of Marketing Management
Special Issue Editor(s)
Sheffield Hallam University
Claudia E. Henninger,
University of Manchester
Caroline J. Oates,
University of Sheffield
University of Birmingham
Panayiota J. Alevizou,
University of Sheffield
Children and young people: Opportunities and tensions for sustainability marketing
This special issue aims to explore and push the research agenda surrounding children and young consumers within sustainability marketing.
The Global Action Plan for Education for Sustainable Development developed by UNESCO has identified children and young people as agents of change and has included the empowerment and mobilization of younger people as one of its five priority areas (UNESCO, 2018). Despite the increasing importance of children and young people for sustainability, relatively little is known about how they engage, if at all, with sustainable issues. Most research in the field focuses on adults, which has produced contradictory and contentious results, ranging across decades of marketing research intent on finding the so-called ‘green consumer’ (Peattie, 2001), a quest widely perceived to be problematic (McDonald et al., 2016). Extant research in marketing also privileges consumption to the relative under-representation of other sustainable domains, such as alternative business models like sharing and renting in a circular economy (Henninger et al., 2019).
Key studies in the area of children, young people and sustainability have also raised some contradictory findings, suggesting the need for further research from different theoretical bases. For example, the role of sustainable education in promoting children as influencers on family behaviour has been found to be both effective (O’Neill & Buckley, 2019; Singh et al., in press) and partially effective depending on context and parents’ involvement and attitudes (Gentina & Singh, 2015; Lawson et al., 2018). Younger children and adolescents vary in the extent to which they can successfully use strategies to change family behaviour, indicating that education may be more usefully targeted at a certain age group (Walker, 2017). Indeed, children may at times influence family behaviour to be less sustainable by favouring non-organic over organic foods, for example (Grønhøj, 2006). What is not understood from extant literature is what domains are more open to child influence or how durable education for sustainability might be over time, i.e. as the child develops into adolescence and then adulthood, or across transitions i.e. from primary to secondary school, and from school to higher education or work.
In acknowledging the potential role of children and young people as sustainable actors, we ask: how can marketing research contribute to our theoretical understanding of younger people in the wider sustainability landscape; how can marketing address the promotion of sustainable products and services to this particular audience; how can marketing engage this audience in alternative models of production and consumption; and how can marketing facilitate children and young people as influencers for sustainable choices and behaviours? Our focus is on under-25s, who are exposed to many potential encounters with sustainability at an impressionable life stage (Singh et al., 2016) and who have been relatively neglected in terms of research in marketing and sustainability. This age group also covers the emerging adult, recognised as a key transition time in the shift towards other socialisation agents and influencers, as they potentially move away from family and parents towards peers, fellow students, colleagues and partners (Arnett, 2016). Although the socialisation literature is rich in how children and young adults develop in relation to others, the application of socialisation theory to sustainability is scarce (Matthies & Wallis, 2017).
Therefore, this special issue focuses on the role of children and young people in their (non)engagement with sustainability, both from their own perspective, and from the perspective of agents and agencies involved with children and young people. The issue aims to provide the academic community with theoretical advances in understanding children and young adults as sustainable people in themselves, as influencers on others, and as influenced both by others and by structures such as education, society and marketing. Thus, this special issue will contribute to a more sustainable future.
Topics and questions related to this special issue might include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Researching marketing and sustainability with children and young people:
o What do we know about different ages’ understanding and knowledge of sustainability?
o What are the challenges of working with young children around sustainability?
o How durable is sustainable behaviour over transitions and time? Is there any evidence from longitudinal studies?
- Role of socialisation agents:
o What is the relative importance of socialisation agents such as education, media, peers, and family in informing children and young people about sustainability issues?
o Is there a difference in the credibility of different sources influencing children and young people?
o What kinds of educational programmes exist and how (in)effective are they?
- Children and young people as influencers:
o What facilitates or inhibits the process of influencing others, for example through reverse eco-socialisation or peer-to-peer relationships?
o How might age impact on the influence process?
o Is there a space for influencing/being influenced in the digital environment?
- Marketing of sustainable products and services:
o What does the sustainable marketing space look like for relevant sectors such as food, cosmetics, travel and gaming aimed at a younger audience?
o Does sustainable labelling play a role in children and young people’s consumption of FMCGs?
o How do children and young people engage with slow fashion/fast fashion?
- Sustainable markets:
o To what extent do children and young people engage with alternative business models?
- Technological applications and sustainability:
o How do children and young people use technology to monitor/change their sustainable consumption?
o What is the role of technology in the sharing economy for young people?
- Cultural influences:
o Are there cultural differences in how children and young people engage with sustainability?
o How is sustainability understood by children and young people across cultures?
For more details including the reference list for this CFP, please visit the JMM blog: https://www.jmmnews.com/children-and-sustainability/
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