Are Consumers Greenwashers? A Qualitative Study of Sustainable Clothing Brands' Impact on the Late Modern Consumer's Identity Project

Simone Misser-Pedersen & Kathrine Kornecka Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This master thesis reflects upon the current environmental concerns, which have given rise to the phenomenon of green marketing. By virtue of this new field it questions the link between identity construction and the excessive consumption that drives environmental depletion. The thesis aims to investigate the impact of sustainable clothing in the identity project of the late modern consumer. Additionally, the aim is to discuss which practical implications these findings deduce for the 'greening' of marketing practices in the clothing industry. This is, from a social-constructivist and philosophical hermeneutic point of view, conducted as a multi-method qualitative study with a threepronged analytic approach. The first preliminary analysis clarifies how sustainability in general, as well within the clothing industry, is a growing consumer trend. Nonetheless, sustainable clothing brands are highly challenged by complex and non-transparent definitions and pressure from the continuously growing fast-fashion industry. In the primary analysis, it is explicated how sustainable clothing consumption takes part in the identity project. The phenomenon is qualitatively investigated among young, urban Danish women, and analysed through a holistic framework of three theoretical perspectives on identity; a societal, a collective and an individual. The key findings reveal that the consumers assign both individual and culturally constructed meanings to clothing, which determines what brands and styles are incorporated into the identity project. The main criterion for using clothing to signal an ideal self-representation is perceived quality. However, sustainable clothing brands are challenged by their absence on the conversational agenda in social circles. In addition, sustainability in clothing is often overlooked due to individual and narcissistic criteria such as price, quality, and sense of style. These findings constitute the basis of formulating practical implications for sustainable clothing brands. In sum, sustainable clothing brands can employ green marketing parameters to communicate transparency to overcome the lack of trustworthiness, utilise the established positioning on perceived quality, and appeal to the narcissism of consumers.

EducationsMSc in Economics and Marketing, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages123
SupervisorsJesper Clement