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Sufficiency for Sustainability: A Matter of Servitization and Framing?

Published onJun 21, 2023
Sufficiency for Sustainability: A Matter of Servitization and Framing?
Marie-Julie De Bruyne1,*, Katrien Verleye1
1 Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium
* [email protected]

Extended abstract

In response to ever-growing demand for materials and energy in a world where resource reserves are depleted at fast pace, sufficiency has been introduced as an approach to reduce absolute consumption levels (Bocken & Short, 2016). To date, research on sufficiency has examined how sufficiency is integrated into business models (Bocken & Short, 2020, 2016; Bocken, Morales & Lehner, 2020; Freudenreich & Schaltegger, 2020; Niessen & Bocken, 2021). In this regard, multiple scholars argue that sharing business models incorporate sufficiency by enabling consumers to slow down resource loops and consume less resources (Bocken & Short, 2020; De Bruyne & Verleye, 2022; Gorge et al., 2015; Niessen & Bocken, 2021). However, several scholars also stress that business model innovations oriented towards sufficiency – such as sharing business models – should be accompanied by marketing messages oriented towards sufficiency (Bocken & Short, 2016; Freudenreich & Schaltegger, 2020).

To date, marketing has devoted attention to encouraging consumption of more sustainable products and services through green and social marketing (Andreasen, 1994; Papadas, Avlonitis & Carrigan, 2017). Examples include the Conscious labels by H&M (fashion) and the “100% electric” statements by Renault (transportation). Meanwhile, marketing may also center on discouraging consumption, which reflects demarketing and countermarking (Bradford, Gundlach & Wilkie, 2005; Kotler & Levy, 1971). For example, the anti-fur campaign by Lynx (fashion) and the anti-flying campaign by Flight Free UK (transportation). Recently, sustainability scholars have introduced sufficiency marketing, defined as marketing oriented towards moderating consumption by focusing on satisfying needs rather than promoting wants (Bocken & Short, 2016; Bocken, Morales & Lehner, 2020). Yet, how businesses can implement sufficiency marketing in the context of sharing business models and how consumers respond to this implementation is not well-understood.

To provide insight into the consumer implications of sufficiency marketing implementation, this research starts with a review of the literature on sufficiency marketing practices and compares these practices with those related to green marketing, social marketing, demarketing and countermarketing (MacInnis, 2011). Drawing from this review, the present research will examine how servitization and its framing influence sufficiency consumption (i.e., consumers’ intention to moderate consumption). Furthermore, this research will account for the mediating effect of consumers’ reflexivity (i.e., the extent to which consumers reflect on their consumption in light of sustainability [Akaka & Schau, 2019; Fehrer, Baker & Carroll, 2022; Niessen & Bocken, 2021; Vink & Koskela-Huotari, 2022]), and the moderating effect of consumers’ sustainability orientation (i.e., the extent to which consumers value environmental protection [De Bruyne & Verleye, 2022; Haws, Winterich & Naylor, 2014]) and industry (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Research model

Servitization refers to consumers being offered services rather than products to extend or intensify product lifecycles (Kowalkowski et al., 2017; Verleye et al., 2023). The sharing economy involves business models with low levels of servitization (i.e., sharing business models centered on transferring ownership of tangible resources) as well as business models with high levels of servitization (i.e., sharing business models centered on giving access to tangible resources) (De Bruyne & Verleye, 2022). Examples include ownership-based clothing resale services by EILEEN FISHER (fashion) and access-based car sharing services by Turo (transportation). Given that servitization challenges conventional consumption (Eckhardt et al., 2019; Fritze et al., 2020), we hypothesize:

H1: Compared to sharing business models with a low level of servitization, sharing business models with a high level of servitization (a) result in higher levels of reflexivity, which (b) results in higher levels of sufficiency consumption.

Framing refers to the way in which information about offerings is communicated to consumers (Eberhardt et al., 2021; White, Habib & Hardisty, 2019). Any message can be formulated in terms of losses or in terms of gains. Loss-framed messages focus on potential costs stemming from not behaving in a certain way whereas gain-framed messages focus on potential benefits stemming from behaving in a certain way (Chen, 2016; Cox, Cox & Zimet, 2006). Examples include “But this mentality only contributes to the clothing waste crisis and means $$$ for you!” by Goodfair (fashion) and “All of this contributes to a reduction of carbon emissions by up to 40%” by Getaround (transportation). As consumers tend to focus more on costs than on benefits (Grazzini et al., 2018; Ngo, Poortvliet & Klerkx, 2022; O’Keefe & Jensen, 2008; White, Macdonnell & Dahl, 2011), we hypothesize:

H2: Compared to loss-framed messages, gain-framed messages (a) result in lower levels of reflexivity, which (b) results in lower levels of sufficiency consumption.

To empirically test our research model (see Figure 1), we will rely on a series of between-subjects experimental designs.

The present research enriches the (service) marketing literature by introducing sufficiency marketing from the sustainability literature, thereby complementing the literature on green marketing, social marketing, demarketing and countermarketing (MacInnis, 2011). Additionally, this research advances the sustainability literature by linking service marketing concepts to sufficiency consumption (Freudenreich & Schaltegger, 2020). In particular, this research contributes to a better understanding of the role of servitization and its framing in changing consumption patterns in light of sustainability (Bustinza et al., 2019; Verleye et al., 2023; Verleye & Reber, 2022). Finally, this research has important practical and societal implications because it illustrates how marketing practices can help in shifting towards sufficiency consumption by means of servitization and framing practices that stimulate consumers to engage in reflections regarding their consumption (Mende & Misra, 2021).


Sharing economy, sufficiency business models, sufficiency marketing, reflexivity, sustainable consumption


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