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3 J. Mgmt. & Sustainability 14 (2013)
Social Reinforcement of Environmentally Conscious Consumer Behaviour at a Grocery Store Cooperative

handle is hein.journals/jms3 and id is 551 raw text is: 

                                                   Journal of Management and Sustainability; Vol. 3, No. 4; 2013
                                                                        ISSN 1925-4725 E-ISSN 1925-4733
                                                        Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education

     Social Reinforcement of Environmentally Conscious Consumer

                     Behavior at a Grocery Store Cooperative

                               Shannon L. Moncure1 & Mark E. Burbach1
1 School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Correspondence: Shannon Moncure, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.,
68506, USA. Tel: 1-402-570-6409. E-mail: smoncure2@ounl.edu

Received: August 5, 2013      Accepted: September 22, 2013      Online Published: November 18, 2013
doi: 10.5539/jms.v3n4p14      URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ims.v3n4p14

Cooperative, natural grocery stores set themselves apart in many ways from the corporate, for-profit stores that
are often seen as more mainstream in the United States. Created through local grassroots efforts, such
cooperatives tend to support enviromnental efforts like local, sustainable and organic agriculture, and to offer
environmentally friendly foods that are low on the food chain and/or contain little embodied energy. A feeling of
belonging can be a powerful motivator to shop at the co-op, and even to join the organization. Such in-group
experiences serve both to build and maintain relationships and to differentiate the cooperative from other grocery
outlets, reinforcing the social preferences toward enviromnental conscious consumer behavior in such retail
outlets. This qualitative study explores one local cooperative grocery store through a symbolic interactionism
lens, asking whether and how community is built through shoppers' verbal interactions with co-op staff.
Ethnographic methods are used to highlight and explore shoppers' interpretation of the co-op experience, and
how that interpretation is communicated through social interaction. Themes found in the data indicate that both
customers and staff see the community cooperative as not only a place to shopbut also as a place to interact with
likeminded people, about topics and issues integral to their sense of identity, especially in the area of
environmentally conscious consumer behavior.
Keywords: cooperative grocery store, symbolic interactionism, environmentally conscious consumer behavior,
social legitimation
1. Introduction
1.1 Environmental Issues and Consumer Behavior
There is a general alignment within the scientific community regarding the existence and severity of
environmental issues such as climate change, degradation of environmental systems, and loss of natural
environments and species (Anderegg, Prall, Harold, & Schneider, 2010; Hunter & Chen, 2011; Oreskes, 2004).
Further, the negative environmental effects of industrial food production have become recognized by many in
the scientific community, and efforts have been made to introduce consumers to options like organically,
sustainably, and locally produced food (Carlson-Kanyama & Gonzalez, 2009; Dalgaard, Hitchings, & Porter,
2003; Hunter & Chen, 2011). While consumer awareness of environmental issues and more sustainable options
has risen, as has expressed intent to purchase these foods, actual purchases of most consumers have not changed
along similar lines (Carlslon-Kanyama & Gonzales, 2009; Kalafatis, Pollard, East, & Tsogas, 1999; Lockie,
Lyons, Lawrence, & Mummery, 2002; Mainieri et al., 1997; Nolan, Schultz, Cialdini, Goldstein, & Griskevicius,
Because of the impact that humans' everyday consumptive behaviors have on the natural world, and in order to
protect natural environments and the built environments of farms and ranches, it is necessary to understand how
people's ordinary decisions and behaviors can be influenced toward greater sustainability (Kollmuss & Agyeman,
2002; Ukenna, Nkamnebe, Nwalizugbo, Moguluwa, & Olise, 2012). Moreover, environmentally conscious
businesses need tobetter understand consumer behaviors (Berndt & Gikonyo, 2012; Leonidou & Leonidou, 2011;
Tilikidou, 2013). This is particularly important if environmentally conscious businesses want to appeal to more
mainstream consumers (Dupr6, 2005).
This article explores the community-reinforcement interactions of customers and staff of a local cooperative

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