Marketing and compromising for sustainability: Competing orders of worth in the North Atlantic

John H Finch, Susi Geiger, Rachel Joy Harkness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of our article is to propose that compromising is a constitutive characteristic of those marketing systems that entail matters of public interest or concern. In such markets, actors design compromises as they encounter criticisms of and contending justifications for the market’s products, as these refer to price, efficiency in production and use, regulatory compliance or ecological sustainability. Tests and justifications are vital in order to determine what is valuable and by which measure. As a theory framework, the economic sociology of conventions provides a basis for assessing these contests, compromises, and justifications over the issue of worth in a marketing context. Through an ethnographic study of the regulated activities of chemicals service companies supporting the upstream petroleum industry, we assess how actors evaluate and justify the market’s products and services in this environmentally sensitive setting by means of tests drawing from different orders of worth: the green, the industrial and the market order. Our contributions show that by artful and pragmatic compromising around exchanges, actors in marketing systems can balance several conflicting orders of worth over the question of worth without needing to converge on an overriding institutional logic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-93
Number of pages23
JournalMarketing Theory
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Earlier versions were presented at the workshop on Anthropology of Markets and Consumption, University of California Irvine (March 2013) and at the Strategic Management Society’s conference in Glasgow (June 2013). We are grateful to participants at those meetings, our colleagues Thomas Anker and Kalliopi Chatzipanagiotou, and Markus Giesler, Eileen Fischer and this journal’s referees for comments and criticisms as we developed this article. The usual disclaimer applies.

The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/ or publication of this article: The research upon which this article reports was funded by the Leverhulme Trust, grant F/00 273/N.


  • compromise
  • economics of convention
  • environmental markets
  • market systems
  • orders of worth
  • sustainability
  • valuation studies


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