The problem of authenticity in ethical and environmental behaviour. A discourse analysis of reconciling principles and practice.
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Pelton, Daisy K
In this paper, I analyse talk about ethical and environmental food consumption recorded from four interviews and four focus groups, the majority in Edinburgh. This empirical study was conducted in the light of the increased emphasis by government and NGOs on individual responsibility for tackling global problems. A discourse analytic approach shows the problems encountered when people talk about ethical and environmental behaviour and identities; and the devices employed to negotiate these problems. The analysis showed that ethical and environmental behaviour whilst food shopping was constructed as superficial. Participants orientated to the motivation behind the behaviour as being more important than the behaviour itself – therefore their discursive devices can be seen to be addressing the issue of authenticity. The discursive strategies analysed work to undermine sustainable consumption and therefore have implications for government policy towards sustainable consumption. They constitute barriers to sustainable behaviour, which go above and beyond the barriers highlighted in traditional research – that of the need to change attitudes to change behaviour and practicalities like monetary cost and infrastructure. Moreover, the paper has implications for the way ethical and environmental identities are portrayed in research papers.