Despite a growing awareness and understanding of the impact our lifestyles have on the environment, most people have not adequately changed their consumption patterns. One possibility for the disconnect is the perceived abstractness of sustainability. Drawing on construal level theory, this research proposes that framing environmental sustainability as circularity, using the principles of the circular economy, reduces the perceived abstractness of sustainability. Four studies investigate the effects of circular framing on sustainable consumption behavior, including the moderating role of consumers’ chronic level of construal, an innate mindset reflecting a tendency to view information more concretely or abstractly. Findings provide initial evidence that, beyond offering a viable economic solution to operationalize sustainable development, the concept of circularity can concretize the abstract construct of sustainability, shifting the paradigm of sustainable behavior and consumers’ willingness to engage. This knowledge has important implications for both companies and policymakers in developing strategies and messaging to step-change consumer acceptance and adoption of sustainable behaviors. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Consumer behavior; Sustainability; Circular economy

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graziadio Business School



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Cristel Russell