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In search of a sustainability marketing curriculum : a critical exploration.

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Sustainability has emerged as a broad-based global trend that impacts on the concept of ‘planet and people’. Consequently, the emergence of sustainability issues in the context of marketing theory, marketing curriculum and marketing practice is what is interrogated in this research study. Accordingly, this resulted in the formulation of questions around the conceptualisations of sustainability marketing and the relevance of sustainability marketing in the marketing curriculum. In order to facilitate the “Search for a sustainability marketing curriculum” the first research question was designed to identify the status and presence of sustainability marketing in the existing marketing curriculum. This initial phase of the research process involved a content analysis of higher education institutional handbooks and in some cases, marketing course outlines. The information from this phase of the research revealed the extent to which sustainability marketing was included or silenced within the marketing curriculum. The second research question of this study focused on uncovering the perspectives of those that have influence in the design and construction of marketing curriculum. These perspectives were linked to the ideological context in which marketing theory was viewed and how this may contribute to marketing curriculum transformation. This served as the catalyst to the second phase of the research study where a qualitative researcher lens was used to explore issues around sustainability marketing and the sustainability marketing curriculum. Additionally, the critical marketing paradigmatic context justified the use of critical case studies in accessing and producing data. The method used in the acquisition of this information was through participant interviews. The paradox between the Dominant Social Paradigm in existing marketing curricula and the ‘provocation’ for a socially responsive marketing curriculum such as a sustainability marketing curriculum was included as areas of enquiry in the participant interviews. Resultantly, the extension of this debate was facilitated through an understanding of the historical context of the development of marketing theory and the use of the theoretical and conceptual framework of the academic response to marketing by Arnold and Fisher (1996). Therefore, the participants’ accounts were displayed utilising a metaphorical lens in the form television screen imagery to represent historical eras in marketing theory development, television programme channels to represent participant’s paradigmatic orientation and television programme contents to represent the individual participant voices. Hence, the participants were portrayed as “The History Channel: The Apologists”, “The Business Channel: The Social Marketers” and “The Discovery Channel: The Reconstructionists”. The third research question of the study related to the theorising component of the study through an examination of why the participants held specific viewpoints related to sustainability marketing and the sustainability marketing curriculum. The data findings from the participant portrayals were further abstracted and resulted in the creation of a new curriculum response to marketing sustainability through the proposition of three new sustainability marketing curriclulum paradigms. The new sustainability marketing curriculum paradigm responses have been entitled “Curriculum Stagnators”, “Curriculum non-Traditionalists” and “Curriculum Transformers”. Additionally, this thesis proposed four different thematic categories in the understanding of the new curriculum paradigms namely: “The Sustainability discourse trend/fad; “The Skilling rhetoric”; “Restricted academic agency” and “Student participation in curriculum development. This resulted in three Meta themes which were used in the conceptualisation of a “Sustainability consciousness and curriculum redesign hierarchy”. The hierarchy suggested that higher levels of sustainability marketing consciousness would encourage marketing curriculum transformation and redesign. In so doing these new theorisations (sustainability marketing curriculum paradigms and the sustainability marketing consciousness and sustainability marketing curriculum redesign hierarchy) have advanced knowledge in the field of marketing theory and could potentially be used in the formulation of new marketing knowledge and marketing curricula. Additionally, the advancement of knowledge in the field of marketing can be extended through the recommendation for future research in suggested areas such as student perspectives of sustainability marketing in the marketing curriculum, academic agency and competencies in sustainability marketing and pedagogical approaches to teaching sustainability marketing in the South African context.


Doctor of Philosophy in Education Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Edgewood 2016.


Marketing -- Curricula -- South Africa., Marketing research -- South Africa., Marketing -- Study and teaching -- South Africa., Theses -- Education., Sustainability marketing.