Sustainability Marketing and Natural Burial Grounds

By Ruth Penelope Spence-Stone.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper is a first step in examining the role of natural burial grounds as an initiative of sustainability in body disposal and funeral practice. It looks at the motivations of those who currently own or operate a natural burial ground in Great Britain and the focus of their activities in marketing the concept and their sites. Natural burial speaks to the concerns of sustainability–environmental, social and economic–because it offers a less-damaging alternative to that of conventional funerals, which use chemicals and energy, waste non-renewable resources and convert the biodegradable components of the body into harmful emissions. Natural burial grounds were conceived in the early 1990s as a benign alternative to conventional burial as they prohibit embalmed bodies and restrict coffins to those made from renewable and biodegradable materials. Natural burial has a long way to go to achieve broad acceptance as it represents only a tiny percentage of all body disposals. Thus, this paper examines operators’ use of marketing and their attitudes towards profitability. The findings suggest their motivations are more altruistic than commercial which may impede the longer-term viability of this important initiative.

Keywords: Sustainability, Natural Burial Grounds, Body Disposal, Funerals, Motivations, Marketing

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.39-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 260.999KB).

Ruth Penelope Spence-Stone

Lecturer, Public Communication, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Ruth holds an MBA from Ashridge, England and is enrolled in a PhD in sustainability marketing and the funeral industry at the School of Management at UTS. She worked in four countries with McKinsey & Company before beginning a new career in marketing and advertising with companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Unilever. She is the creator of the advertising major in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at UTS and the Australian author of Wells, W. Moriarty, S. Spence-Stone, R. & Burnett, J. Advertising Principles & Practice, Pearson Education Australia, now in its 2nd edition.