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Large UK retailers' initiatives to reduce consumers' emissions: a systematic assessment

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 22:55 authored by Elizabeth Morgan, Anne Tallontire, Tim FoxonTim Foxon
In the interest of climate change mitigation, policy makers, businesses and non-governmental organisations have devised initiatives designed to reduce in-use emissions whilst, at the same time, the number of energy-consuming products in homes, and household energy consumption, is increasing. Retailers are important because they are at the interface between manufacturers of products and consumers and they supply the vast majority of consumer goods in developed countries like the UK, including energy using products. Large retailers have a consistent history of corporate responsibility reporting and have included plans and actions to influence consumer emissions within them. This paper adapts two frameworks to use them for systematically assessing large retailers’ initiatives aimed at reducing consumers’ carbon emissions. The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) is adapted and used to analyse the strategic scope and coherence of these initiatives in relation to the businesses’ sustainability strategies. The ISM ‘Individual Social Material’ framework is adapted and used to analyse how consumer behaviour change mechanisms are framed by retailers. These frameworks are used to analyse eighteen initiatives designed to reduce consumer emissions from eight of the largest UK retail businesses, identified from publicly available data. The results of the eighteen initiatives analysed show that the vast majority were not well planned nor were they strategically coherent. Secondly, most of these specific initiatives relied solely on providing information to consumers and thus deployed a rather narrow range of consumer behaviour change mechanisms. The research concludes that leaders of retail businesses and policy makers could use the FSSD to ensure processes, and measurements are comprehensive and integrated, in order to increase the materiality and impact of their initiatives to reduce consumer emissions in use. Furthermore, retailers could benefit from exploring different models of behaviour change from the ISM framework in order to access a wider set of tools for transformative system change.


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Journal of Cleaner Production







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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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