Who Are the Consumers? - The Need for a Sustainability Integrated Consumer Research Agenda

Christa Liedtke, Johannes Buhl, Melanie Speck, Lisa Marie Borrelli, Silvia Monetti


In order to make our lifestyles sustainable, changing our consumption patterns is fundamental. Hence, we need to better understand who the “consumers” are and to consider them as an active actor to directly engage for ensuring effective policies. In order to support a resource-light society, production and consumption need to be considered through an integrated system view; within this, consumers play an important role as co-acting subjects. Almost every activity in private life involves a form of consumption aimed at satisfying the subject’s needs and often regarded through an economic lens. Sustainable development is not about abolishing private consumption, but rather about making it environmentally, socially and individually sustainable in its design, organization and realization, also involving ideas of simplicity or renunciation. In this paper, we will assess the status quo of the German and European debates on Consumer Research Policies and discuss the idea to link sustainability research and consumer research – where a strategic relation is currently missing. Within that discussion, an evidence-based and obligatory consumer research strategy in Germany and Europe would represent a significant improvement. A system view perspective is necessary to take into consideration the impressive amount of diversity, and to elaborate realistic economic and consumer policies. Therefore, we propose nine steps for understanding the role of the consumer in implementing sustainable development from a scientific and political perspective. The limitations of this paper are thus a result of the very diverse and often unclear policies and agendas produced by governments. The implementation of the proposed innovative research agenda for a future-orientated and sustainability-based consumer research is not free from challenges. Still, the paper suggests the first steps towards this direction. After a critical discussion of the current EU and German consumer and sustainability policies, nine differentiated and substantial ways to integrate and ameliorate them are proposed.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/emsd.v5i2.9918


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Copyright (c) 2016 Christa Liedtke, Johannes Buhl, Melanie Speck, Lisa Marie Borrelli, Silvia Monetti

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Environmental Management and Sustainable Development  ISSN 2164-7682

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