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Sustainability / Publiction Abstract

When Big Is Less than Small: Why dominant brands lack authenticity in their sustainability initiatives

Jan 27, 2023

Karen Anne Wallach, Deidre Popovich



Brands are responding to the increasing importance that consumers and society have placed on sustainable practices and products. In the current research, the authors investigate the unique challenges of dominant brands in the marketplace related to sustainability. We demonstrate that consumer assessments of sustainability initiatives lead to perceptions of inauthenticity in dominant brands. We argue this disadvantage is tied to the inherent conflict between sustainability initiatives, which are focused on “taking less,” and the prevailing measure of success in business, which is “making more.” Within this paradox, the challenge of a dominant brand becomes further amplified as the brand is perceived as being larger in size and more profit centric. Seven studies, including a field experiment on Facebook, document this effect and provide practical implications for brands to help alleviate these challenges with increased brand commitment, including third-party certification.

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