Banal creativity: navigating risk through ecological threat

Elaine Ritch, Douglas Brownlie

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Facets of discourse around ‘sustainability’ are widely inscribed within contemporary brand identities as communications platforms seek to assert ‘green’ credentials (Weise et al., 2013). This is particularly noticeable within the UK grocery sector where the four dominant retailers compete to be perceived, not merely as the cheapest and best value, but as the ‘greenest’ (Yates, 2009). This paper considers consumer reaction to such initiatives on the basis that they frame brands as active agents in greening, bringing to consumers the added value of some measure of ecological safety. The rhetorical device of distributed salvation situates the gift of environmental forgiveness with the brand and ecological sin with wayward consumers. Brands then position themselves as expert systems for delivering, through consumption, the socially valorising credentials of the concerned green consumer. However, the reduction of discourse on ‘sustainability’ to advertising appeals and questions of shopper choice misses, in our view, the need to examine wider facets of creative consumer engagement with the problematic of sustainability. We suggest that to understand consumers as creative practitioners of everyday living helps to understand how market acquisitions have important parts to play in furnishing the routines of the everyday; and in indicating ways in which new (sustainable) routines can emerge from destabilising habits that settle worlds, denaturalizing old habits and naturalizing new patterns of thought and deed. The term co-creativity situates the work of habit not within the subjectivity of the individual actor, but in the interaction that occurs between actors at the level of objects and discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • sustainability
  • consumer engagement
  • grocery sector
  • environmental aspects


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