This paper aims to shed light on the demand side of sustainability, that is, on its perceived meaning. The goal is to understand how people think of sustainability, the concepts they evoke when they talk of sustainability and the images and symbols they use to explain these concepts.Design/methodology/approachThis study uses a mixed method. First, ten individuals are interviewed using the Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET), a protocol developed by Gerald Zaltman in the early 1990s. The concepts and categories emerging from the ZMET have been analyzed, integrated and classified to identify key dimensions.FindingsTen concepts related to sustainability are the most recurring in the ZMET: problems and solutions, individual behavior, environment and ecosystem, technologies and innovations, social fairness, food and nutrition, mobility, education and mindfulness, sustainable development and utopia/ideal world.Research limitations/implicationsTen interviews is a small number to provide a comprehensive analysis of all the meanings of sustainability. To obtain a more complete picture, the number of interviews may need to be increased to 15–20.Practical implicationsThe fact that the two concepts appearing with the highest frequency in the ZMETs are “problems and solutions” and “individual behavior” signals that though people understand that there are many problems to be solved in the world as it is now, even the single individual can contribute with his/her behavior.Social implicationsSustainability is an issue that involves society as a whole; hence, its improvement requires concerted political action coordinated at the national and local levels. The key point of this action is education of people, to make them aware of what sustainability really is.Originality/valueAlthough the literature on sustainability is rather abundant, extant literature has mainly focused on the supply/managerial side such as sustainable and responsible companies, corporate social responsibility and also sustainable tourism. This paper sheds some light on the more neglected side of the demand perspective.
Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 28, 2020
Keywords: Sustainability; Content analysis; ZMET; Perceived sustainability