The role of social marketing in behavioural change for a circular economy: Exploring the value-action gap for routine purchases in a competitive retail setting
Mc Ardle, Maeve
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This research extends the social marketing agenda into the area of pro-environmental behaviour addressing the ultimate behavioural change challenge of achieving a circular economy. The successful transition to a circular economy will be achieved only when society moves from the traditional linear model of ‘take-make-dispose’ to a circular model where individuals engage in pro-environmental behaviour. Although people profess a willingness to act in a pro-environmental way, they often fail to do so in practice which is known as the value-action gap (Blake, 1999). The research question chosen for this study set out to examine the value-action gap for recycled paper products and explore the role of values and reasons in understanding pro-environmental behaviour in a competitive shopping context. The methodology applied in this research involved a sequential mixed methods approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research to gather data from household shoppers and key industry stakeholders. Westaby’s (2005) behavioural reasoning theory model provided an insight into the value-action gap at the individual level and was used to specify contextual factors facilitating or preventing behaviour. Both ‘reasons for’ and ‘reasons against’ were identified. These reasons were then used to create measurement scales and to design interventions. The model was then tested using structural equation modelling and was found to be a good fit. To address other gaps beyond the individual, the meso and macro levels were examined using key stakeholder research and competitor analysis. The findings explain household shopping behaviour for recycled paper products and identify a range of interventions that could be effective in achieving a successful transition to a circular economy. This research makes three main contributions. Firstly, it confirms the potential role of social marketing in addressing behavioural change for a circular economy. Secondly, it contributes to an understanding of the value-action gap for recycled paper products at the individual level and beyond. Finally, it offers a new multi-level framework for addressing behavioural change which can, in future, be applied to value action gap research in other social contexts.
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