DAN Faculty in the News

Professor Mark Cleveland was featured in the Western News article about the problem with plastic straws on July 11, 2018.  The following is an excerpt from the Western News article: Straw poll: Western chooses paper over plastic :

Plastic straws have become – much like the plastic bag – an environmental bête noire, added Mark Cleveland, Dancap Private Equity Professor in Consumer Behavior at Western.

Locally, even globally, their elimination might not make a huge difference but they are, in some ways, a proxy for bigger-picture environmental awareness.

Concerns about sustainability and eco-conscious consumer behaviour are especially prevalent among the demographic that frequents Starbucks, Cleveland said.

“If you think about Starbucks customers, they’re mostly millennials and Generation X-ers,” he said, adding this demographic has has grown with concerns of sustainability ‘drilled’ in.

“We are starting to see the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. If your core customers are concerned – we call them eco-centric – about the ecological impact of their consumption behaviours, it only makes sense for Starbucks to engage in these types of initiatives, for image impression management, to be seen as progressive, to build good will among their customers and also to position their company as being environmentally responsible,” Cleveland explained.

The move to eliminate plastic straws is a minor, superficial, but highly visible change for businesses, he continued. It’s a smart move for businesses that consumers are looking at as leaders. And it will take more than the average consumer to make a positive impact.

“Consumers are thinking what they can do on a daily basis. The research I do is looking at how people might be internally motivated to be environmentally responsible but changes will come from powerful others in society, and that includes companies and governments. It’s not enough for consumers to be pro-environmental, because if I am doing it and nobody else is doing it, it’s not going to have an impact whatsoever.”