Constraints on Sustainable Energy Consumption: Market System and Public Policy Challenges and Opportunities

Melea Press and Eric J. Arnould
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing
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Executive Summary
The ways consumers relate to and use energy are becoming increasingly important as demand for electricity increases. However, it is not understood how consumers relate to energy use and what factors constrain sustainable energy consumption. Corporate interest in sustainability has been influenced by several concerns. Corporations ranging from athletic shoe, furniture, and carpet manufacturers to big-box retailers are increasingly thinking about their carbon budgets, the cradle-to-cradle life cycles of their products, their energy and pollution costs, natural resource use, and consumer concerns with these issues. The economic benefits of sustainability thinking to corporate cost controls and reductions in environmental liabilities have driven significant corporate sustainability initiatives. Nationwide surveys find that both consumers and executives report that environmental issues (including climate change) are one of their greatest personal concerns for the next five years. The purpose of this essay is to identify factors that constrain customers’ ability to engage in sustainable energy consumption, conceived of as a consumption practice that reduces the moral hazards associated with fossil fuel overconsumption. The authors approach this topic from a market system perspective and outline some marketing policy and consumer research issues related to the market system. They identify four constraints to sustainable energy consumption: policies/regulation, product accessibility/availability, pricing, and customer knowledge. This topic is important because of changes in the macro context of energy consumption—namely, growing recognition that we live in a fundamentally resource-constrained environment and the increased salience of various global commons effects to customers.

Melea Press joined the University of Wyoming in spring 2008 as Assistant Professor of Marketing and Sustainable Business Practices. She received her PhD in Marketing from the Pennsylvania State University in 2007. Between 1994 and 2002, she dedicated herself to printmaking and book arts and spent time at Peacock Printmakers in Aberdeen, Scotland, and Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York. Her interest in social science solidified in 1999 while she was doing volunteer work at the Hope Project in the Nizamuddin Basti in New Delhi, India. Her work focuses on alternative markets, local food issues, transformative consumer research, energy consumption, and sustainable business practices. She has presented her work at conferences for the American Marketing Association, the Association for Consumer Research, and the Society for Macromarketing.

Eric J. Arnould joined the University of Wyoming faculty in fall 2007 to foster new initiatives in sustainable business practice. He has pursued a career in applied social science. Dr. Arnould’s research on development, services marketing, consumer culture theory, and marketing channels in developing countries appears in more than 90 articles and chapters in major social science and managerial periodicals and books. Previously, he served as the PETSMART Distinguished Professor in the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona, and before that he was the E.J. Faulkner College Professor of Agribusiness and Marketing at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has taught at universities in Australia, Denmark, France, Slovenia, and New Zealand.

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Volume 28, Number 1, Spring 2009
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Melea Press and Eric J. Arnould
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