Activists' and social entrepreneurs' approaches towards consumer culture: Providing a protective space for sustainability transitions

Margo P. M. Enthoven*, Hendrik N. Thelken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Social entrepreneurs and activists can contribute to sustainability transitions by influencing consumer culture. This can provide a protective space to shelter new sustainability solutions from market pressures until they are ready to scale to the mass market. We study how social entrepreneurs and activists within a sustainable market niche attempt to influence consumer culture. Using grounded theory, we analyse interviews with 26 activists and social entrepreneurs in the market for alternatives to animal products in the Netherlands. We find a synergy where social entrepreneurs' strategies pull consumers into sustainable consumption while activists' strategies focus push consumers out of unsustainable consumption. These strategies contain four tactics: connecting to, showing contrast with and broadening consumers' connection to values associated with sustainable consumerism and a radical innovation tactic. We show how strategies for consumer culture change interact on the niche level of sustainability transitions to create a protective space for sustainability solutions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18-Apr-2022


  • activism
  • consumer culture
  • market niche
  • qualitative
  • social entrepreneurship
  • sustainability transition

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