Barriers to downward carbon emission: Exploring sustainable consumption in the face of the glass floor

Hélène Cherrier, Mathilde Szuba & Nil Özçağlar-Toulouse (2012). Paper published in Journal of Marketing Management, 28:3-4, 397-419.

illustration-co2-footprintThe present study explores the constraining forces to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) via alternative and/or reduced consumption. The analysis of introspection, netnography, ethnographic work, and 18 interviews demonstrates that needs are not innate human requirements and that consumers are not free and autonomous agents able to incorporate reduced or alternative consumption within their lifestyles. Specifically, our analysis shows the existence of barriers to downward carbon emission. These barriers, which we combined under the concept of the glass floor, represent sociocultural standards preventing our informants from achieving their goal of reducing their carbon footprint. Our findings are presented around two main themes: the social construction of needs and the social imaginary.

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