Understanding the complexity of consumer behaviour and implications for the sustainable consumption discourse
The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
Publishing year: 2010
Document type: Conference paper
Addressing climate change and the collapse of ecosystems without threatening the economy, while simultaneously improving the well-being of all people, and ensuring social justice and equality seems to be the largest challenge in the history of mankind. So far, all the efforts to address growing environmental and human problems through technological solutions and half-hearted policy measures have been largely outpaced by the growing population and increasing consumption levels. It is therefore increasingly important to understand how environmental impacts from rising consumption can be reduced, and for that we need to understand the essence, driving forces and the complexities of the phenomena – consumption. Looking at consumption from a societal perspective, we can see that purchasing and behavior decisions are influenced by many factors, including economic influences, marketing of products and technological innovations, regulations governing consumption, and not least by what the people around us and in the media are doing. The complex interactions between these factors result in the consumption patterns and levels that Europeans think of as “normal”, but which in fact are unsustainable and may bring us less happiness and life satisfaction than we imagine. A deep understanding of processes that shape consumption patterns and levels is needed if we are to promote sustainable ways of living. This paper reviews evidence on factors that shape and affect consumption so that we can better understand the complexity of consumption, as well as the relevance of these factors for instigating changes towards sustainable patterns and levels of consumption.