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Exploring the (re-)configuration of environmentally unsustainable practices

Doctoral thesis
Authors Bianca Koroschetz
Date of public defense 2019-06-05
Opponent at public defense Docent Herman Ståhl, Enheten för företagsekonomi, Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet
ISBN 978-91-88623-11-9
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Business Administration
Language en
Keywords Sustainable consumption, Reconfiguration of practices, Linkages, Configurators, Re-configurators
Subject categories Business Administration


This thesis explores how to (re-)configure environmentally unsustainable practices into more sustainable forms in the empirical context of leisure boat antifouling. Current antifouling practices predominantly involve the use of biocide-based paint to avoid the adherence of marine organisms to boats. However, antifouling paints are harmful to marine life, and therefore policy makers and businesses seek options to replace the toxic paint through more environmental alternatives. This thesis uses a practice theoretical-perspective to study the reconfiguration of environmentally unsustainable practices. Practices can be understood as routinized human activity, consisting of various interconnected practice elements. Previous research explains that the reconfiguration process is initiated by breaking or loosening the linkages between practice elements, but in practice, various aspects keep practice elements glued together. To learn more about the persistence of unsustainable practices and how we can reconfigure them, for example through exchanging an unsustainable material element with an environmentally friendly one, it is vital to elucidate the linkages between practice elements sustaining the eco-unfriendly practice. A multi-method approach consisting of observations, interviews, visual and textual materials has been used to explore these linkages. The collective findings and analysis reveal several ‘configurators’ that impact and sustain the linkages between practice elements of unsustainable practices and ‘re-configurators’ that can loosen these linkages. This study suggests a framework that facilitates the reconfiguration of environmentally unsustainable practices, based on four ‘re-configurators’: eco-innovation, regulation, marketing practices and infrastructures. This thesis contributes to the field of researching sustainable consumption by proposing a combinational approach of several ‘re-configurators’ to facilitate more sustainable practices. Additionally, this study contributes to practice theory by expanding the knowledge on the under-theorized concept of linkages. With regard to marketing, this thesis has implications for the adoption of new products in practices and how sustainable products should be marketed.

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