The potential of self-governance in stimulating sustainable consumption of mobile phones
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This thesis focuses on sustainable consumption interventions from a corporate perspective within the mobile phone market. It is acknowledged that increasing levels of consumption largely contribute to the impact that society has on the environment. Scientists argue that businesses can play a key role in interventions towards sustainable consumption, as they are central to creating technology and wealth. This is especially relevant within the mobile phone industry, due to scarce materials that are processed in mobile phones and the occurrence of negative social impacts in mining processes, as resources often originate from conflict areas. This research concerns a case study on the potential for a Dutch telecom provider to include sustainable consumption measures in its environmental strategy towards mobile phone consumers. The central question that guides this research is: To what extent can KPN strategically intervene in sustainable consumption of mobile phones as a form of self-governance on the basis of factors that determine sustainable consumer behaviour? In order to answer this question, the research has been approached at two analytical levels; the consumer level and the corporate level. For the consumer level, assumptions are formulated on the basis of a literature review on explanatory factors that determine sustainable consumption. In order to test these assumptions empirically, structured interviews are conducted with 40 KPN customers. From the corporate level, intervention options for business interventions to stimulate sustainable consumption are derived from literature, and empirically tested by means of a content analysis of corporate documents and by conducting expert interviews with managers. The empirical results at the consumer level show that the promoting factor with the most potential to address stimulate sustainable consumption is improving information access. In contrast, a constraining factor is the attitude-behaviour gap, as there seems to be an explicit gap between the positive attitudes of consumers towards sustainability and their actual consumption behaviour. Furthermore, the fact that mobile phone consumption is to a large extent determined by habitual purchase behaviour forms a barrier to address sustainable consumption. These constraints are difficult to overcome through corporate measures. Nonetheless, it is concluded that the potential for KPN, in order to stimulate sustainable consumption amongst its customers, lies mostly in using appropriate communication strategies targeted at specific consumer groups. However, results also show that the negative environmental and social impacts of mobile phone consumption cannot be tackled at a system-level by means of self-governance. Hence, in order to address this problem, other modes of governance have to be considered.