Exploring Strategies toward Sustainable Consumption

A large number of disciplines have studied consumer behavior. Some research investigates individual choices, while other categories focus on broader lifestyle models (...). The field of economics has been traditionally dominated by neo-classical views based on the rationality of individuals squarely focused onfinalized at achieving a utility maximization measured in market prices and opportunity costs[MS1] . However, research in psychology, sociology, and marketing science has revealed that “consumer behaviour is far more complicated than just a rational response to price signals” (Mont, O. – Plepys, A., 2008; p. 532). Consumer behavior and consumption practices, are the  are influenced by result of a number of factors beyond economics (Sanne, C., 2002; Buenstorf, G. - Cordes, C., 2008), involving sociological, psychological, technological, and environmental issues. Among these, are social and behavioral phenomena that shape everyday life, including collective expectations; cultural norms, values, and attitudes; the way choice options are made available and presented to consumers by different markets; and the existing infrastructure, organization, habits, and routines (Jackson, T., 2005, Tukker, A. et al, 2006). Therefore, methodologies for changing behaviors – and in particular motivating more sustainable behaviors – areis far from straightforward or ascertained, because we are often locked into unsustainable patterns despite our own best intentions.

To modify consumption levels and patterns in order towith the purpose of decreassieng environmental damage, we can identify two principal strategies: shifting demand to low-impact consumption products, and lowering material demand (Michaelis[UD2] , L., 2003; Tukker, A. et al, 2008  alter fonti). Both strategies must, systematically, involve all the actors in the economic system, including such as governments, business, and individuals (Tukker, A. et al, 2008b).

In the case of shifting demand to low-impact consumption products, the goal is tofocus is on modifying our consumer attitudes toward environmentally friendly products and services and encouragefavoring the proliferationdiffusion of green shopping. Over the last decade, policy makers from a policy perspective many efforts have worked hard been devoted to  advertise and promote green shopping toinfluencing consumersr attitudes and values toward green purchase. International agencies and national governments have paddressedromoted  sustainable consumption through administrative and economic instruments - such as product standards, taxes, and ecolabels directly addressingaffecting the consumer choices (Mont, O. – Plepys, A., 2008), and distributedcreated information kits on responsible consumption to makeeducate citizens aware ofn the impact of their choices on the natural environment. In Europe, the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan, endorsed in 2008 by the European Union, represents the most recentlast attempt to organize these many efforts to realized in this area, complement othering the environmentalspecific policies already in force.enforced over the years. The goal, of course, is This program has been designed to boost the demand for more sustainable goods. Along with Like the revision of both the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives and Ecolabelling (European Commission, 2009; Nash, H. A., 2009), the Action Plan entails obligesing retailers and producers to educate consumers on sustainable purchases, and increasing their proactive role in this process (European Commission, 2008).

Also Business has, moreover, strongly advocated conversion to pushed for the shift towards green products and categories. As noted above, it has become increasingly dedicated towe mentioned before, companies are getting more involved in developingthe development of sustainable products and technologies consistent withas the rise in consumers s’are gradually being more concerned about the environment and more aware about the effect of their activities and decisions on itimpact of their choices on nature (European Barometer; BCG; Bonini ... , WBCSD, 2008).

A sizeable amount of research  over the last five yearsSeveral researches carried out in the last five years with panel data hasve measured this positive trend (zzz). Several agentsaspects, including increasing media attention tocoverage of environmental news by media, increasing publicgrowing education on sustainability issues, government pressure,s from civil society and innovative business approaches have all increasedcontributed to rise the consumers’ cooperation in preserving the environment from further damage. willingness of acting on these concerns. These surveys used to gather these data,conducted in  carried out across several countries, - reveal growing consumer interest in patronizing vendors of to green products and a surprisingly good intention to buy.  In other words, barriers to buying green are diminishingseem lowering, thereby providing  businesses with new marketing targets. opening new markets opportunities for companies. Green products are moving beyond the niche into the mainstream publicshopping finally seems to have the potential to move away from the niche where they have been hiding until now arena.

At the same time, it is true that the intention to buy does not always translate into purchases, as marketing studies have made clearit has already been identified and addressed for several years in marketing studies (Peattie or Crane Young, W. et al, 2010). A large percentage of consumers in fact still have not yet transittedcrossed the threshold  frombetween intention toand action (Eurobarometer and WBCSD … ), but the context is rapidly evolving and consumers show signs of greater maturity: higher awareness on the environmental impact of their actions and choices, higher willingness to pay for green products, higher appreciation of the benefits of environmentally and socially responsible products (WBCSD, 2008; Manget, J. et al, 2009).[MS3]  However, further challenges await beforethere are still some challenges to face if business canwants to adequately respond tofully exploit the potential of the increasing public awareness of rising sustainability issuesconsciousness. More in-depth analyses have revealed that consumption of green productsthe green purchase process varies according to category and industryis influenced by the type of products and industries considered (organic food, textiles, detergents, with goods, energy, etc.), and that price is much less a barrierseems a much lower obstacle than consumer ignorancethe awareness aboutof green alternatives and where they can be purchased and, the limitedation in the number of options available., and the lack of information about where to find green products  (Manget, J. et al, 2009). Business must take the initiative to reach this receptive publicThese reasons very likely represent potential opportunities for business, which could use communication tools and distribution channels to efficiently target new potential consumers. Another still critical obstacle is the lack of information and consumer skepticism. The public must learn which alternatives are best on environmental performance. Consumers look confused and need support in choosing among alternatives. Therefore, companies and industrial organizations have room to improve the quality of messages on green alternatives must improvethat accompanies their green offer. At the same time, labels, ranging from product descriptionsson-pack claims to certifications provided by internationally recognized bodies, can be useful tools to address allay consumer skepticismdistrust, reducing the gap between intentions and behavior (WBCSD, 2008; Bonini and Oppenheim, 2008).

NNevertheless, the gradual entry of developing countries into global markets will soon exacerbate the mounting problem—further proliferation of the western world’s consumption model., biased both environmentally and materially. This destructive direction must be reversed towardpleads forcalls for an implementation of stronger and long-term actions aimed at lowering material demand. On the one hand, For industrialized countries, tthe current societal model of of industrialized countries fits with a literal definition of consumption involves usingas the use of up an item something up to destroy it, where the utilization of goods is strictly which results in based on the depletion of environmental resources (Peattie, K. - Collins, A., 2009, p. 107). On the other hand, taking the economic model ofperspective consumption involves coincides with the act of purchase, rather than usewith the utilization of resource-intensive goods. In other words, lowering material demand does not consequently mean lowering expendituresconsumption levels in terms of monetary expenditures, but switching to different, less material  - or less environmentally destructiveintensive - lifestyles, which in turn requires. A different task, requiring stronger efforts by both business and government tin comparison to shifting o direct consumers shopping towards greener, and more sustainable products within the same product categories they usually purchase.

The drive toward reducLowering material consumption is not a novel to promote concept when we address the topic of environmental sustainability is nothing new. It appeared first in the mid-1970s The debate rises in the mid of the ’70 with the report Club of Rome “Limits to Growth” published by the Club of Rome report and its legacies (Meadows et al., XXX). Public A turning point is probably the acceptance of tan ideal he distinction between reducing theconsumption  levels of consumptions and improving the quality reducing the materiality of goods and services consumed was a significant step in the right direction.  within the same quality of life. This distinction is well defined assumption is well captured in this definition made by UNEP in 1999:Sustainable consumption is not about consuming less, it is about consuming differently, consuming efficiently, and having an improved quality of life(Jackson, T. - Michaelis, L., 2003, p. 14). Forty years later, improvements in In practice, this process until now has shown limitations related both to consumer behaviors and business attitudes are unremarkable.

As we mentioned above, the existing infrastructures, social norms, and habits continue to limit consumers are largely imprisoned in infrastructures, social norms, and habits that strongly limit their choices (xxxx), which  persist in equatingere quality of life is often mistakenly equated with material consumption. Within the work-and-spend economic system that rules our actions, the amount of Economy has built a system of work-and-spend where work done is a disutility directly rproportionalelated  to the amount utility of consumption it permits; in other words, unlocks, with the consequences that the goal of work is acquisitivemore people works, Businesses brainwash consumers into believing that their the more people are able and keen to spend. Marketing, instead, promotes a consumer culture where every desire and need can be satiated by converted in a commercial goods or services (Sanne, C., 2002). The result is Both systems contribute to diffuse a culture of individualism and possessiveness--, where an individual can f single man is sufficient enough to satisfyulfill all his needs materiallywishes individually, causing a redundant presence of goods that could and can share the possessions acquired in this processpotentially be shared with a large number of people. Psychological studies suggest that consumer behavior is also competitive—the quantity and apparent quality of additionally fostered by individual competition, where material goods have acquired importance in definesing social status; in other words, one’s cache of material goods defines one’s positioning, or by the symbolic role that goods play in the construction of personal identity--, both and in communicating affiliations and peer groups identity (Jackson, T. - Michaelis, L., 2003). An alternative model of society could entail less acquisitiveness abe rooted in less materialistic ambition nd superior priorities - like freedom, security, a good reputationsocial recognition, concern with improving the environmental quality, good health, and a lifestyle consistent with theseability to live in accordance with one’s values and ideals (Tukker, A. et al, 2006, p. 12) - all of which militate against the destructive  preoccupation with that challenges the principles of societal model led by material growth (Mont, O. – Plepys, A., 2008).

To alter the material consumption to which a population is dedicated and accustomed is an extreme challenge, to vested interests in particular. Accordingly, it is complex for firms to engage with strategies aiming at lowering material consumption. Changing consumption patterns appears to challenge vested interests. While in the past industries conscientiously contributed to social welfare and well beingWhile in the early days of capitalism companies were highlighting their role in diffusing welfare and well-being within society, more recently in recent times, strategic and marketing logistics require aggressive competition and robust growthare such that the survival of companies in a market depends in their abilities to either increase their market shares through competitiveness, with the ultimate goal of increasingor to foster growth within the whole market, in order to reach higher revenues for shareholders and other investors (Jackson, T. - Michaelis, L., 2003).

A third important cissueonsideration is  comes from the necessity to take in consideration that, beyond industrialized countries, economic growth idoes not only concerns sought by  industrialized countries, but is a basic goal for at least 80% of the world’s population (Chertow, M. R., 2001). The eradication of poverty is inevitably tied in with this goal and is strongly linked with poverty. eradication issues.  Today In recent times we are observing the emersion of a new large new class of consumers, is which is rapidly accessinggaining access to  the global markets in countries such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil with their increasing demands for material goods burgeoning.material-based consumption patterns. At the same time, many populations in Africa faceare facing different kinds of challenges, at the level of subsistence and survival such as meeting the basic needs (Clark, G., 2007), an exigency caused by global and. This arises social inand global equality issues., One means of combatting this is through policies that promote that are pillars of sustainable development throughout the global community., and that may require the adaptation of sustainable and green consumption policies according to the geography of the world.

 

An Integrative Framework ForToward  Sustainable Production aAnd Consumption in the Global Community

Our goal in this paper is to provide purpose here is to provide an integrative framework for a deeper understanding of the challenges that face governments, businesses, and civil society have to tackle in the comingnext decade as we forge ahead towardin order to reach  a societal model in uniformity and equality in the distribution of material and environmental benefits the world over.equilibrium with the carrying capacity of the natural environment and were human well-being is distributed mere equally among countries and populations. On the basis of the two dimensions addressed in the previous sections, production and consumption, Iit is possible to build a multidimensional 2 by 2 matrix that identifies 4 stylized societal models distinguished by their vdifferentarious  impacts on the natural environment (see Table 3).  

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Insert Table 3 about here

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To measure consumerthe behavior, of consumers we studieduse the intensity of consumption that indicates the amount of consumption per person within a certain societal model. We identified 2 types of consumption patterns that may be associated with  various behavior patternsto different kinds of behavior: one based on a high level of consumption and the otherone  based on a low level of consumption, where consumer behavior is focused on fulfillment is mainly driven by the satisfaction of basic needs andor directed to the satisfaction of fewerless material aspirations.

To measure theaddress improvements achieved by technology and businessesthe improvements done within the business, we useduse the ecological efficiency as a criterion, that is, which stands for the amount of environmental impact per unit of production. In this case, the 2 production patterns identified refer to either a high or low level of efficient consumption of natural resources efficiency or a high level of natural resources efficiency.

By combining the 2 variables, we derived 4 societal models – business as usual, low affluence, technology driven, and sustainable - whichthat reflects the positions of current socio-economic systems and foresee allows us to envisage angradual progress toward universal evolutionary path to sustainability practices that promote sustainability.

Business as usual models are describes the societal models that still seek wealth through material-intensive growth and consumption. From the production perspective, Technologicaly  improvements in productions are economically motivated, aiming to increase only driven by economic factors such as higher productivity and economies of scale, which in turnaimed at fostering the economic growth and increaseing production volumes, with little or no motivation to improveconsideration for sustainability. issues. Ecology remains at odds withand economy are still in contrast, and protection of natural resources is a considered a financial burden cost for business,that threatens reducing firm competitiveness and social well-being. In other words, the environment is regarded as an unlimited resource, and with the consequence of environmental degradation as an acceptable by-product of growth. In terms ofOn the consumption, side, the model is dominated by a culture of quantity that measures well-being with consumerism,  and socialsorts class and lifestyles according to the quantity by the ownership of material goods owned.

Technology- driven models are characterized by a general awareness of the problems caused by the issues of uncontrolled and unsustainable growth but, at the same time, by a widespread confidence in technological progress as the sole means of achievingway to reach the objective of sustainable development. In this societal model, business has taken initiatives started implementing measures at the process, product, and system levels to eradicateabate pollution and increase efficiency. The economic and managerial debate focuses on the question, “does it pays to be green?”, and economic issues are no longer measured in terms of[MS4] t anymore considered in contrast with profitability, --but many firms still struggles to discoverin identifying  business opportunities within a sustainable system. in it. At the same time, governments focus on implementing policies strive tothat enhance the eco-efficiency of processes and products, and regulate the emission of pollutants and waste at the industry level. Citizens are aware of the importance ofssues related to environmental sustainability, and green shopping is a likely reactionto be in the emergent phase, but they consumers have not yet caught on in large enough numbers to make a difference.extended this concern to their consumer behaviors., hence, increasing the risk of A “rebound effect” may therefore result, offsetingting the improvements in eco-efficiency achievedobtained by technology applied to eco-efficiency. Here we typically refer to western and industrialized countries, with their high standards of livinglevel of well-being and, high levels of counsumption, their and growing attention to and concern forwards sustainability issues increasing, but not “there” yet.

Low affluence refers to models are societal models at the “bottom of the pyramid” (Prahalad C.K., Hart S.L., xxxx) characterized by low – or very low - consumption patterns and low technologicaly development. In this context, the goal of technologicaly improvements isare directed to increase cost-efficiency. and largeSubstantial effort iss are devoted to building the first technological infrastructures, few of which have yet seen the light of daystill limited or absent. The environmental efficiency of technologies is in general low, and technologies are often obsolete, abutnd  the overall impact is still limited because  due to the fact that markets are in many cases at early stages of development, and consumption patterns are not sustained by a strong demand. As a matter of fact, therefore, the level of environmental impact relatively low. At the same time, in these contexts many basic needs – such as health, security, and education - remain unfulfilled.still need to be fulfilled. Environmental protection issues are peripheral compareding to social and economic needsrequests and in practice local governments often believeconsider that economic growth iin contrast with s inhibited by the requirement toprotection of protect ecosystems,, like in the case of and reduce climate change and global warming, which in turn problematizes the goal of rising complex question about sustainable development.

Finally, in sustainable models growth and welfare are not motivated by material gainfounded on non-material ambitions; rather,, with useconsumption of environmental resources isn balanced with the carrying capacity of ecosystems. Technologicaly evolution complies with has consistentstandards conducive toly lowered its impacts in terms of eco-efficiency, which entail thanks to the  implementation of measures and innovative solutions in the areas at of process, product, and system level. Companies have evolved to a higher level fully entered in a new phase of commitment to responsibility towards society and identify competitive opportunities in sustainability, having reached consumers and produced an deriving both by the emersion of new concerned consumption segments and by innovative business model structured to enter emerging markets at the bottom of the pyramid. Governments are indeed strongly dedicated committed to enactto policies that aim at safeguarding the natural capital as an indispensable not-substitutable source of social well-being and economic welfare. In a sustainable societal model, consumers play a key role through altering their materialistic consumption patterns and lifestyles, motivated and contribute with less material ways of living, driven by a growinghigh awareness ofn the impact of their choices on the environment.

The framework Wwe propose allows envisaging an evolutionary path towards a sustainable societal model focuseding on improving production and consumption patterns in the direction of enhanced sustainability. In the previous sections we We have already discussedpointed out how western and industrialized economies have advancedjust passed from a business- as- usual model to one oriented towarda technology driven one. At the same time, relevant constituencies of society – such as business, governments, and civil society - do not prioritizeare hardly struggling to find a way to evolve towards the sustainability.e model, despite sustainable consumption is still far away from being achieved.  On a different position of the matrix we find New industrialized and developing countries hoverthat are still in the middle of athe development trajectory towards higher levels of well-being. These countries prefer seems oriented to follow western patterns of unsustainable consumption and are quickly adopting our materialistic lifestyleapproach, embedded intaking possession of the vices of consumerism. Finally, countries at the “bottom of the pyramid” have yet to traversemust get trough several evolutionary stages to eradicate poverty and consistently improve well-being. Even in this case, Here they risks seduction into are related to the imitation of thea destructive societal model stubbornly maintained bylike the one of affluent societiesy, trending toward passing through extremelythe unsustainable path of like the business- as- usual model or the technology- driven modelsone. The goal of a sustainable society can be reasonably targeted in a practical way only if alternative opportunities of development opportunities are enhanced, reaching out more effectively to the more recalcitrant models.are made real and more attractive. This requiresmeans more innovative business approaches of doing business, deeply rooted in native capabilities (XXX);, improvedstronger relations between the industrialized world and developing countries based on the transfer of knowledge and technology transfer, and advocation the proposal of less materialistic lifestyles and consumption patterns (XXXX).

 

Conclusions

For decades SCP has been considered a critical issue for policy makers and the civil society in their race towards sustainability. While difficulties in with regards to controlling  of population growth are evident, much progress has been achievedplenty of work has been done inon the production technologyside. For years companies have been developing and implementing innovative strategies, ranging from operational solutions at operational level to others encompassingsolutions involving the entire business system in which the company is embedded. In addition, the consumers areis becoming increasingly aware of the direct damage potential of effects oftheir his choices on the depletion of environmental resources. In this context, efforts to change actual consumption patterns have championedbeen mostly oriented towards fostering green shopping, which implies a shift to more sustainable purchases within the same product or service category.

However, a change in the basket of products and services consumed is not enough to effectively address destructive consumption trends, which continue to increase, fostered by materialismconsumerism and by the access of an increasing number of citizens from developing countries to global markets and to the material-intensive attitudes inspired by our model of economic development.

If we are to avoid environmental crisis, we must there is the critical need to lower material demand, move toward sparserwhich requires a shift toward different and less material-intensive lifestyles and new and innovative business models. Business and governments mSuch a task entails ust make a different and stronger commitment by business and governments and direct contact  and a need to act on tdiscourse with the pillars of a system controlled by destructive which current social norms and infrastructures .have constructed, allowing consumerism to be deeply rooted into our routine and habits. A demanding challenge to the twenty-first century is to Ccooperateion with developing countries in constructing aimed at guiding new economies to follow a development  vastly path different from the one our modeleconomies, which is destroying not only the environment but a value system far more sustainable than this powerful western machine that craves luxuries our future cannot affordwent through would probably be the one of the main challenge of this century.

 

 


 [MS1]Not sure I’ve construed this correctly either. I don’t know what a “utility maximization” is. Maximizing the utility of a given program or formula?

 [UD2]Non sono sicuro

 [MS3]This is all repetition

 [MS4]I’m not sure I understand the point here.