Subsistence and Sustainability

Problem Statement

A majority of those living in poverty depend on the natural environment to meet their basic consumption needs (Collier, 2010). To substantiate, natural-resource dependent livelihoods such as agriculture, fishery and forestry directly support a large fraction of the global poor, across the developing and developed world alike (Worldbank, 2001). To complicate matters, local environmental conditions, such as water and air pollution levels, also have an indirect effect on the livelihoods of the poor by impacting their health.

Although the environment is a shared public resource, environmental degradation has a disproportionate impact on the lives of the poor as compared to that of the rich (Viswanathan et al., 2014). The rich have greater access to resources to insulate themselves from the direct and indirect impacts of environmental degradation – a protective cushion that the poor lack. The aforementioned condition leaves us with a situation where vulnerable consumer groups, such as the poor, are systematically put at greater risk than other less vulnerable consumer groups in society. Despite this reality, bulk of the research on environmental sustainability in marketing has been carried out in contexts of affluence (Kotler, 2011). Given that the natural environment directly supports the basic consumption needs of a large fraction of the global poor, TCR scholars must investigate and ameliorate specific challenges to environmental sustainability in contexts of poverty.

Goal of the Track

The subsistence and sustainability track will study how subsistence communities conserve, augment, harness and manage natural resources in order to maximize collective well-being. The track will also examine challenges to maximizing well-being, and how these challenges could be overcome. To address these broad research questions, the track participants will adopt a participatory action research approach (Ozanne and Saatcioglu, 2008) to explore the relationship between poverty and the natural environment. This will necessitate the inclusion of local communities in the research process and allowing for their lived experiences to shape research priorities and outcomes. This approach will also involve maintaining an open mind and a mutual learning mindset throughout the research process, on the part of all stakeholders.

Prior research has brought forth substantial insights on sustainability by taking the point of view of marketing firms that are straining to balance the competing demands of financial and environmental sustainability (Ozanne at al., Forthcoming). This track will add complementary insights to this emerging discourse by studying the issue from the point of view of local subsistence communities and focusing attention on how local communities manage the competing goals of harnessing the environment and conserving the environment in order to ensure sustained community well-being.

Track Structure

True to the theme of relational engagement, the track will form and maintenance relationships with multiple stakeholders such as community members and practitioners throughout the research process and beyond. The track chairs have been working in subsistence communities in South India for many years and will play a facilitating role in the relational engagement process. They will also be facilitating the process of generating and sharing data. The specific activities that will be carried out pre-conference, during conference and post conference are mentioned below.


  1. Track chairs will strive to constitute a group of scholars with a shared passion for the research topic but with diverse theoretical and methodological persuasions.
  2. All participants will attend an introductory online meeting to learn about each other’s interests and expertise. Online discussion forum will be created to facilitate sharing of ideas and to set a path forward in a democratic way. [Mid-January]
  3. Track participants will develop interview questions and conduct preliminary interviews with individuals from subsistence communities. The track chairs will be able to help the data collection process by utilizing their prior experiences and relationships in subsistence communities to facilitate the interview process and also obtain relevant pictures/video from local contexts. All participants will independently read and interpret interview transcripts and pictures from local contexts. [Feb-March]
  4. Track participants will identify practitioners to connect with to further shape emerging understanding. Participants will develop interview questions and conduct preliminary interviews with practitioners. All participants will independently read and interpret interview transcripts. [March-April]
  5. All participants will attend an online agenda setting meeting to discuss emerging insights from data and identify potential focus-areas for deeper inquiry. [Mid-April]
  6. Independent literature review on the focus-areas will be conducted to grasp the current state of knowledge and readings will be shared prior to conference.


Day 1

  • Morning: Group discussion to evolve three to four high impact ideas, developing each idea in some detail.
  • Early-Afternoon: Group and smaller team discussions to further develop high-impact ideas, including the identification of key research questions, data collection needs, etc.
  • Mid-Late Afternoon: Group discussion to reflect on how the identified high-impact ideas fit into the broader research landscape.
  • Evening: Presenting the ideas to external groups and acquiring feedback.

Day 2

  • Morning: Sharing the chosen ideas over Skype with community members and inviting their feedback.
  • Early-Afternoon: Sharing the chosen ideas over Skype with practitioners and inviting their feedback.
  • Mid-Afternoon-Evening: Developing detailed timelines and task-breakdown for additional data collection, as well as writing a) an academic paper and b) dissemination materials (policy briefs, practitioner articles etc.). Arriving at a consensus on the basis for determining authorship order.


  1. Monthly online meeting to track and manage progress on deliverables.
  2. Invite friendly feedback on manuscript.
  3. Revise and submit academic paper to JBR and share dissemination materials with stakeholders.
  4. Explore more ideas to build a collaborative program of research in this area.

Please contact the corresponding track chairs for questions about this track:

Roland Gau

University of Texas at El Paso

Srinivas Venugopal

University of Vermont

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  1. Collier, P. (2010). The plundered planet: Why we must–and how we can–manage nature for global prosperity. Oxford University Press.
  2. Kotler, P. (2011). Reinventing marketing to manage the environmental imperative. Journal of Marketing, 75(4), 132-135.
  3. Ozanne, J. L., & Saatcioglu, B. (2008). Participatory action research. Journal of consumer research, 35(3), 423-439.
  4. Ozanne, L., Phillps, M., Weaver, T., Carrington, M., Luchs, M., Catlin, J., Gupta, S. Santos, N. Scott, K. & Williams, J. (forthcoming). Managing the tensions at the intersection of the Triple Bottom Line: A Paradox Theory approach to sustainability management. Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.
  5. Viswanathan, M., Jung, K., Venugopal, S., Minefee, I., & Jung, I. W. (2014). Subsistence and sustainability from micro-level behavioral insights to macro-level implications on consumption, conservation, and the environment. Journal of Macromarketing, 34(1), 8-27.
  6. World Bank (2001). World Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press.