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Creating sustainable identities: the significance of the financially affluent self


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  • Victoria Hurth

    (Exeter University, UK)

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    This paper uses identity theory and postmodern identity perspectives to analyse why high-income groups often have values, attitudes and intentions to consume sustainably, yet tend to have the highest energy consumption of any group. Two key arguments are presented. The first is that the affluent identity is opposed to the environmentalist identity and is more salient, desirable and likely to result in more social support and self-esteem rewards. Therefore, where both identities are held the affluent identity is likely to be more dominant and invoked in more circumstances. Second, the invocation of the affluent identity is liable to result in high-energy consumption. Despite some evidence of affluent identities being successfully connected by marketing with low-energy 'green' consumption, there is stronger evidence of the affluent identity being consistently embedded symbolically within high-energy consumption choices. Recommendations for marketing and social marketing are made and a matrix to guide sustainable identity strategies is proposed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Sustainable Development.

    Volume (Year): 18 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 123-134

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    Handle: RePEc:wly:sustdv:v:18:y:2010:i:3:p:123-134

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    1. Christopher, Andrew N. & Schlenker, Barry R., 2000. "The impact of perceived material wealth and perceiver personality on first impressions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-19, February.
    2. Schipper, Lee & Ting, Michael & Khrushch, Marta & Golove, William, 1997. "The evolution of carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in industrialized countries: an end-use analysis," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(7-9), pages 651-672.
    3. Vringer, Kees & Blok, Kornelis, 1995. "The direct and indirect energy requirements of households in the Netherlands," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(10), pages 893-910, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. Büchs, Milena & Schnepf, Sylke V., 2013. "Who emits most? Associations between socio-economic factors and UK households' home energy, transport, indirect and total CO2 emissions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 114-123.
    2. Lars Strannegård & Peter Dobers, 2010. "Unstable identities: stable unsustainability," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 119-122.
    3. Buchs, Milena & Schnepf, Sylke V., 2013. "UK Households' Carbon Footprint: A Comparison of the Association between Household Characteristics and Emissions from Home Energy, Transport and Other Goods and Services," IZA Discussion Papers 7204, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Robert Hay, 2010. "The relevance of ecocentrism, personal development and transformational leadership to sustainability and identity," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 163-171.


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