AuthorIzagirre-Olaizola, Julen
  1. Introduction: the emergence of a sub-discipline

    Many authors have identified high levels of consumerism in the most highly developed Western societies (and increasingly also in recently industrialised countries) as one of the leading causes of the deterioration of the environment (Connolly and Prothero 2003, Pereira and Chatzidakis 2011, Ertekin and Atik 2015, Barbarossa and De Pelsmacker 2016, Yakobovitch and Grinstein 2016). It can be argued that marketing merely responds to and helps to meet the needs of consumers by creating value with that purpose, but those responsible forthe discipline have never stood out for encouraging consumers to adopt a simple lifestyle (O'Shaughnessy and O'Shaughnessy 2002). Even in academic circles, studies that suggest how the knowledge generated can be used to foster higher levels of consumerism (Pereira and Chatzidakis 2011) can be found in far greater numbers than those which focus on de-marketing and on analysing the limits of consumerism (Connolly and Prothero 2003, Peattie and Peattie 2009). That being said, there has been increasing criticism of marketing and its role in society (Tadajewski and Brownlie 2008, Nair and Little 2016), with pioneering contributions in this area dating back over 40 years (Kotier 1971).

    The way in which the ethos of marketing is understood is not unconnected to changes in society as a whole. Indeed, one of the major trends in the discipline in the past few decades has been the emergence of a social concept of marketing (Ottman 1993, Vicente 2000). The spread of a more sensitive attitude towards a range of social and environmental problems has led marketing to extend its field of action to society as a whole, going beyond merely meeting the needs of consumers.

    Its development has been so marked that even the general definition of marketing was changed in 2007 to incorporate a social element. Thus, the definition published in July 2013 by the American Marketing Association reads as follows : "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." This trend means that the discipline has accepted a number of points that valorise its social aspects, with relations between businesses and consumers understood to take place in a context where the social orientation of marketing must not be obviated.

    The appearance of greater sensitivity in regard to the protection of the environment, social justice and caring for health has resulted in the emergence of new approaches to marketing. Concern for environmental problems has increased in the past few decades, and this heightened awareness among a large proportion of people in the most advanced societies has led firms to turn to new ways of behaving in business (Peattie and Crane 2005, Moravcikova et al. 2017).

    Guided by a feeling of responsibility for their surroundings or by the appearance of new business opportunities, many organisations have begun to shift towards activities conducive to more environmentally friendly management. In this way, the paradox perspective on corporate sustainability accommodates interrelated yet conflicting economic, environmental, and social concerns with the objective of achieving superior business contributions to sustainable development (Hahn et al. 2018). Rather than seeking to align environmental and social aspects with financial performance to eliminate tensions, a paradox perspective fosters strategies that accept tensions and attend to different sustainability objectives simultaneously, even if they are conflicting (Carollo and Guerci 2018, Hahn et al. 2018).

    In the wake of this increase in the number of people who are beginning to emphasise environmental concerns in their behaviour patterns as consumers, green marketing emerged as a variant of marketing that could be used to help firms make use of the new opportunities that seemed to be arising (Durmaz and Zengin 2011).

    Green marketing seeks to use the various tools available to firms to meet the needs of consumers who are demanding more and more environmental friendliness from products, brands and firms.

    However, initial optimism as regards the growth potential of the environmental product market has not been borne out. In spite of an apparently favourable trend, growth in the consumption of environmentally friendly products has all but stagnated (Bonini and Openheim 2008). That being said, there is still a potentially large market, so a re-launching of the sector may be expected (Cronin et al. 2011, Chen and Chang 2013, Lu et al. 2015, Nair 2015).

    With a view to stimulating the environmental product market, academics from all around the world have focused since the 1970s on learning the characteristics of those consumers who show increasing concern for the environment and are willing to change their behaviour in order to help protect it (Chamorro et al. 2009).

    It was this factoring in of the environment as a basic variable in the way in which two-way relationships are seen by business organisations that led to the emergence of green marketing. Its impact on business management can be attributed to increasing awareness of environmental issues on the part of society, with that concern being passed on to a greater or lesser extent to the world of business (Estes 2010). From this viewpoint any organisation that operates within a society can be understood as having a responsibility to that society. Moreover, the fact that more and more consumers are coming to see environmental issues as important in the products that they buy means that a new business opportunity exists in responding to that heightened awareness (Durmaz and Zengin 2011).

    To examine the concept of green marketing the first step is to look briefly at the philosophy of marketing and analyse how it evolved towards the more social outlook that has emerged in recent times. From that viewpoint, the sub-discipline of green marketing posits that businesses must change the way in which they handle the use of natural and environmental resources. This change in approach calls for a gradual transformation in conventional entrepreneurial culture towards advanced social and environmental management Ludevid, 2000, Kang et al. 2016). In other words, the conventional approach in which business operations were regarded as unconnected with their surroundings has become obsolete. As a result, organisations need to factor sustainability criteria into their management and marketing decisions and make responsible use of natural resources.

    This has led on the one hand to the emergence of concepts such as social marketing (1), which extends beyond the area of entrepreneurial operations/profitmaking. along similar lines, concepts such as 'macro-marketing' and 'megamarketing' have emerged, which consider how the needs of society can be met as a whole rather than on an individual basis and include both the process of marketing in general and the mechanisms attached to the organisations that handle it (Calomarde 2000). There is also 'de-marketing', which seeks to reduce demand for products and vital resources that may run out due to excessive consumption (Peattie and Peattie 2009, Santesmases 2012).

    In practice, initiatives concerned with protecting the environment have come to account for a large proportion of the activities classed as corporate social responsibility (Kang et al. 2016) and have become one of the essential bases for the development of the concept of green marketing. In this regard, numerous authors have cited environmental issues as one of the fundamental factors in corporate social responsibility (Kang et al. 2016), and perhaps even as number one in order of importance among the social issues that must be taken into account by businesses nowadays (Donaldson and Preston 1995). This is because of the challenges and opportunities provided by the management of these issues (Harvey and Schaefer 2001). although the concept was first posited earlier, it is over the past 40 years that it has developed substantially (Szocs 2011).

    However, a green marketing orientation needs to take a macro-marketing perspective that includes the analysis of producers and consumers and takes account of the multifaceted nature of consumer practices. That requires a critical analysis of the role of marketing in regard to consumption and sustainability (Kilbourne and Beckmann 1998). This in turn means reflecting on whether the dominant social paradigm in developed Western countries is a valid one. Accordingly, doubt is cast on hitherto unquestionable issues such as the possibility of attaining continuous, unlimited economic growth, the limited need for government intervention in the economy and the ability of technology to prevent the destruction of the environment (Pereira and Chatzidakis 2011).

  2. From indiscriminate consumerism to environmental idealism: is green commercialism possible?

    2.1. Questioning the dominant social paradigm

    Up to a few years ago the focus of analysis in matters of the environment in business was mainly on the supply side, covering such topics as technology and eco-innovation, business opportunities in sustainable production, links between firms and suppliers and environmental actors in general (Connolly and Prothero 2003). More recently there have been a great many studies at both domestic and international levels (with something of a time lag in the former case) focused on analysing environmentally friendly consumers, seeking to draw up profiles and set out their characteristics in terms of attitudes, motivations, behaviour patterns, etc., i.e. studies seeking to learn more about the demand side (Chamorro et al. 2009, Durmaz and Zengin 2011, Szocs 2011). However, few authors have investigated green marketing from a macro-marketing viewpoint covering its role in society, its links with other areas and, in...

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