Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences

Over the last decade, it has become apparent that more eco-efficient industrial processes, as well as the design of greener and more ethical products, will not be sufficient to ―achieve sustainable development. A significant number of scholars have concluded that, in addition to these types of innovations, the consumption of greener products must be accompanied by a reduction in the scale of consumption. Schor and Kasser, among others, have explored the hidden costs of high levels of consumption.

For the individual, participation in the vital but still fuzzy project that is ―sustainability can be realized by adopting more sustainable consumption patterns. Globally, sustainable consumption implies not only opting for greener products or solutions, but also consuming less. Furthermore, sustainable consumption requires ―getting more with less, not more stuff but more satisfaction. More specifically, sustainable production and consumption—two conditions of sustainable development—―involves rethinking how needs are met and products are conceived, and ―will involve finding a mix of products and services through which consumers will be able to buy less, use less, and dispose of less without suffering a loss of well-being.

To develop such products and services, and to present them in ways that are appealing to a broad public (or, at least, to citizens already sensitive to alternative, more sustainable, modes of consumption), it seemed relevant to the authors to understand the nature of products (or product-service systems) that are especially appreciated and meaningful among responsible consumers and why this might be the case.

To this end, a qualitative study has been conducted among citizens who, on a voluntary basis, have decided to diminish their levels of consumption and opt for more ecologically and socially sound products. This research project looked at the implications of sustainable, responsible consumption [8] for product design and development. Among other things, the study examined product preferences and perceptions of meaning embodied in the aesthetic qualities of products. The methodological strategy used to gather the information is, at its core, based on key-informant interviews with identified sustainable consumers. Prior to these interviews, participant observation has been conducted among voluntary simplicity groups in order to identify different profiles of citizens promoting, at various levels, sustainable consumption. The paper briefly presents a model that has been developed and which has served as a mean of recruiting citizens who, as they especially promote sustainable consumption through their reported consumption habits, were invited to take part to the key-informants interviews.

The paper explores how the key-informant respondents’ search for a better quality of life by consuming less and opting for ―greener products and services is expressed through the manner in which they perceive and experience consumer goods. More precisely, the paper looks at products preferences in relation to perceived personal benefits from responsible consumption. Based on this study, and on the work of Soper, Kaplan and De Young , the authors discuss the potential of simultaneously promoting the environmental, social and personal benefits of responsible consumption and sustainable lifestyles in general, while acknowledging the dangers of approaches to lighter patterns of domestic consumption that merely reflect personal interests. Finally, the paper considers the implications of these research results for the way products are developed and positioned.

Read the full article here in PDF format.

Citation: Marchand, A.;Walker, S.;Cooper, T. Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences. Sustainability 2010, 2, 1431-1447.

One Response to “Beyond Abundance: Self-Interest Motives for Sustainable Consumption in Relation to Product Perception and Preferences”
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Henricus Peters and Henricus Peters, Professor Paul. Professor Paul said: Self-interested motives to be a sustainable consumer – an interesting article. #Sustainability #Consumers […]

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