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Applications of Sustainable Brand Development Goals on Consumer Behaviour

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson, Prof Yuksel Ekinci  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the Marketing Subject Group and will be supervised by Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson and Professor Yuksel Ekinci.   

The work on this project will:

  • Compile a systematic literature review to identify the current literature on adaptations of sustainable brand development goals.
  • Develop a mixed methods approach to explore how brands implement sustainable development goals  through a qualitative method and whether these implementations have any impacts on consumer behaviour (e.g. purchase likelihood, brand image) through a quantitative method.
  • Contribute to research in the university’s ‘Sustainability and the Environment’ theme
  • Bring cross-collaboration opportunities with researchers in different faculties

Project description

A Mintel report (2020) discusses how consumers’ connection with their external environment is becoming a stronger motivator of consumer behaviour.  Sustainability is no longer a buzz word for brands, it is more of an expectation by consumers.  Brands incorporate sustainable goals by following the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  They adopt one or even several sustainable initiatives such as conserving ocean, sea and marine resources for sustainable development, utilizing sustainable production patterns and promoting sustainable consumption, combating climate change, reducing inequalities (e.g. gender, race), and contributing towards healthy lives and well-being among consumers.  This can be at different stages of the supply chain, from the sourcing the materials/ingredients, in the production/manufacturing process, within the distribution channels, reaching the customer and being extended in the product life cycle (e.g. repair, reusing, or even re-selling).   Unilever's ‘Planet and Society’ initiative is an example of this.   The academic field is also progressing in this direction  by trying to explain the impact of green branding initiatives on consumer attitudes and behaviour towards these brands (e.g. Chen, 2010; Ng et al., 2014; Testa et al., 2015; Tucker et al., 2012).  

The degree of trust that consumers have about a brand’s sustainable credentials,  explains their  ‘willingness to depend on a product, service, or brand based on the belief or expectation resulting from its credibility, benevolence, and ability with regard to its environmental performance’ (Chen, 2010, p. 310)  Hence, brands can use sustainable initiatives to differentiate them from their competitors.  This is imperative to ensure brand survival and growth.  

The aim of the project is to investigate, “Do sustainable development goal applications have an impact on consumer behaviour?”.   First, by identifying how brands implement SDP, such as the types of brands, what they do and the stages they go through. Second, by exploring the adoption of SDPs by brands from a consumer’s viewpoint.  Third, by investigating which sustainable development goals will have an impact on consumer behaviour by looking at willingness to buy, purchase likelihood and brand image.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Marketing,  Social Sciences or a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements 

Interested candidates should have a background in the social sciences, preferably in marketing or psychology. Candidates should have some knowledge of both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  Candidates without such experience should be willing to develop their skills in this area as part of the project.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Sianne Gordon-Wilson  ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Marketing PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

When applying please quote project code: MKTG4821021

Funding Notes

Self-funded PhD students only.
Please for tuition fee information and discounts.


Chen, Y.S. (2010). The drivers of green brand equity: green brand image, green satisfaction, and green trust. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 2, 307–319.

Mintel (2020). Surroundings 2021: Sustainable Spaces.
Ng, P.F., Butt, M.M., Khong, K.W., & Ong, F.S. (2014). Antecedents of green brand equity: an integrated approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 121, 2, 203–215.
Testa, F., Iraldo, F., Vaccari, A., & Ferrari, E. (2015). Why eco-labels can be effective
marketing tools: evidence from a study on Italian consumers. Business Strategy Environment, 24, 4, 252-265.
Tucker, E.M., Rifon, N.J., Lee, E.M., & Reece, B.B. (2012). Consumer receptivity to green ads: a test of green claim types and the role of individual consumer character. Journal of Advertising, 41, 9–2
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