Cutting-edge Research on Sustainable Consumption at the Chair of Global Change and Systemic Risks, University of Bonn

Development of a research strategy on sustainable consumption

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Our present way of consuming products and services has led to serious socio-ecological problems worldwide. Climate change, for example, is one of the most pressing environmental issues which has been caused mainly by human production and consumption patterns since the middle of the 20th century. Sustainable consumption and production have therefore been given a prominent position in the 2030 Agenda as one of the official Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12).

Driven by technical innovations, efficiency strategies (e.g. material efficiency in the production of goods) have so far been at the center of practical sustainability efforts. However, rebound effects have led to immense efficiency gains of recent decades being (over)compensated by increased consumption levels. As global consumption and production rates continue to rise sharply, advocates of a so-called ‘strong’ understanding of sustainable consumption increasingly criticize the sole focus on efficiency (‘weak’ understanding). Instead, they call for more radical, systemic changes, including questioning the current economic growth model.

Given the unresolved problems that currently prevent a real shift towards sustainable development, one of the goals of the Chair of Global Change and Systemic Risks is to develop a research strategy on sustainable consumption that overcomes the division between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ concepts. Future research endeavors shall enrich the prevailing efficiency paradigm by incorporating the less-pronounced concepts of consistency (circular use of resources) and sufficiency (defining sustainable consumption levels). Taking a multi-perspective and interdisciplinary stance, the avenues of research currently discussed by the chair team cover topics such as circular business models and policy measures, sufficiency potentials and values based on a ‘good life’, opportunities and risks of digitalization, as well as holistic sustainability labelling schemes. The methodological approach will draw on the expertise of the chair, i.e. advanced, state-of-the-art methods of quantitative-empirical social sciences with special emphasis on survey and experimental techniques.

Link to the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research

The Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research consists of BICC (Bonn International Center for Conversion), the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), the Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, University of Applied Sciences (H-BRS), the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University (UNUEHS) and the University of Bonn including the Center for Development Research (ZEF). These institutions join forces and pool their knowledge, expertise and experience to tackle questions arising in the complex field of sustainable development.

Three initial research priorities were established to advance the common goal to create the Innovation Campus Bonn (ICB) – a platform for society-wide work on a sustainable future: Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence, Mobility and Migration and Bioeconomy. The research area of Sustainable Consumption is currently being integrated into the ICB’s research programme, specifically in the field of Bioeconomy.

Future research projects will greatly benefit from fruitful cooperation with partners within and outside the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research. If you are interested in cooperation on sustainable consumption, please contact:

Picture Kathleen Jacobs

©Kathleen Jacobs

Kathleen Jacobs

Research Associate and Assistant to the Professor




Latest publications on sustainable consumption:

Green thinking but thoughtless buying? An empirical extension of the value-attitude-behaviour hierarchy in sustainable clothing

Coming out of the niche? Social banking in Germany: An empirical analysis of consumer characteristics and market size

Previous research and cooperation on sustainable consumption

Previous sustainable consumption research at the Chair of Global Change and Systemic Risks has focused on innovative ways of sustainability labelling. In two nearly finished projects, concepts of consumer psychology have been combined with sustainability indicators from the fields of industrial ecology and circular economy. The results of both studies were recently submitted to international, peer-reviewed journals in the field of sustainability management.

1) Effects of positive and negative environmental information on purchase behavior

The project examines how consumers’ willingness to pay reacts to favorable and unfavorable product carbon footprint information.

Cooperation with:

Faculty of Business Management, Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences, Alfter, Germany

Centre for Sustainability Management, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany

2) Effects of product lifetime labelling on purchase behavior

The project investigates what influence product lifetime labelling exerts on purchase decisions for electrical appliances and what motivational factors precede consumer preferences for product longevity.

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