Social Marketing Perspectives on Barriers to and Enablers of Effective Sustainability Communication

Purpose of the paper: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the challenges facing those communicating the potential impact of sustainability on individuals and social groups, using widely accepted behaviour change theories to illustrate major factors that influence behaviour change decisions and supplement this with a review of literature that discusses other factors that should also be considered in developing communication strategies.

Methodology: This is a conceptual paper that uses social marketing principles to highlight the challenges involved in the effective communication of sustainability and related issues.

Findings: We highlight the complexity of factors impacting on individuals attitudes, beliefs and actual behaviour adaptation and suggest that current communication strategies could be significantly improved through greater understanding of adaptation decisions and the key barriers to, and enablers, of sustained positive behaviour change. We highlight current deficiencies relating to both individual and community behaviour change and develop a research agenda that may assist in addressing current gaps in knowledge. We then discuss several major issues in relation to community-based sustainability issues. The paper concludes with recommendations for transdisciplinary research to focus on improvements to message clarity and communication as well as on an understanding of the way messages are accessed and synthesised.

Limitations: This is a conceptual paper: cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary research is needed to determine how the discussed factors vary across contexts.

Implications: An increased understanding of the factors influencing effective communication will benefit policy makers and those involved in the communication of sustainability-related issues.

Originality of the paper: The value of this paper is that it takes a trans-disciplinary approach to issues normally discussed only within individual disciplinary areas.

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