Louise Canning and Isabelle Szmigin 2011

Univesity of Birmingham, UK

Cemeteries, sustainability and transformational marketing

Individuals around the world engage in one common yet fundamental activity that is of personal, emotional, social and environmental significance – disposal of the dead. As the global landscape becomes increasingly populated, so disposal choice becomes a critical environmental issue. Disposal of the dead is an essential aspect of our existence; it is an inevitable activity which cannot be avoided. As recognition grows regarding the need to move towards a more sustainable form of existence, so the way of thinking must change amongst individuals, organisations and governments.  Although burial accounts for less than 30 per cent of deaths in the UK, the challenges facing cemetery provision necessitate shifts in thinking and behaviour amongst various actors so that systems thinking is adopted to ensure the integration of macro marketing perspectives with respective micro-decisions; time becomes an important consideration amongst individuals as they take account of the future outcomes and consequences in their decision-making with regards burial; and consideration be given to alternative ways in which needs can be met other than the current extended “right to use” associated with burial.

Marketing (in its broadest sense) has a fundamental role to play as a change agent, improving value across society, including citizens’ quality of life. The intention of this paper is to examine ‘transformational marketing’ and its potential contribution to addressing the challenges faced by cemeteries provision and sustainability in the UK.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract