Communicating for Sustainable Consumption: Conceptual Explorations and a Research Agenda

Aktivität: Vorträge und GastvorlesungenKonferenzvorträgeForschung

Daniel Fischer - Sprecher*in

    System theorist Niklas Luhmann once wrote that even the most threatening environmental problems will have no social effects unless they are addressed in communication. Communicating for sustainable consumption and production however is notoriously complex. While the importance of consumption and production for achieving sustainable development is widely shared and accepted, communication scholars and practitioners have struggled hard with the generic and systemic nature of sustainable consumption that makes it a seemingly fuzzy concept to communicate.
    Communication of, about and for sustainable consumption is complicated by a number of characteristics: firstly, dominant framings that bear the tendency to reduce it to mere technological challenges or concerns of individual behavioral change. Communicating that this cannot be, and that sustainability challenges comprise social issues like inequality just as much as environmental challenges, has proved to be elusive. Secondly, promoting sustainable lifestyles is often seen as promoting individual behavioral changes, with little attention for the wider systemic aspects of such behavioral change. Thirdly, another challenge in communicating sustainable consumption is that many grassroots initiatives and local, regional, and country policies use different headings such as smart cities, sustainable transportation, slow food, dematerialization, and the circular economy in their efforts to promote sustainable consumption. This variety of labels creates obstacles for communicating an overarching and integrative conception of sustainable consumption and lifestyles and stimulating deliberation and exchange across these often only loosely connected social innovation niches.
    In light of these obstacles, communication scholars and practitioners are challenged to find new ways and approaches to use the concept Sustainable Consumption as an umbrella term to create coherence between these initiatives. This presentation provides an exploration of the particular communication challenges associated with the concept of sustainable consumption and introduces an agenda for future research on communicating sustainable consumption for discussion. The research agenda emerged from on an intensive one-year discussion process of an international group of scholars under the auspices of a Future Earth, including also external validation and input through community forums (see With the presentation the working group aims to invite other communication scholars and facilitate discussion and collaboration on future research on communicating sustainable consumption.


    International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference - IAMCR 2018: Reimagining Sustainability: Communication and Media Research in a Changing World


    Eugene, Oregon, USA / Vereinigte Staaten

    Veranstaltung: Sonstiges