Conceptualizing sustainable consumption: toward an integrative framework

Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy. 2014;10(1):45-61


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy

ISSN: 1548-7733 (Online)

Publisher: Taylor & Francis Group

Society/Institution: Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI); Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production (KAN on SSCP)

LCC Subject Category: Social Sciences: Social sciences (General)

Country of publisher: United Kingdom

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Antonietta Di Giulio (Research Group Inter/Transdisciplinarity, Programme Man-Society-Environment, University of Basel, Vesalgasse 1, Basel, 4051 Switzerland)

Daniel Fischer (Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Scharnhorststrasse 1, Lüneburg, 21335 Germany)

Martina Schäfer (Center for Technology and Society, Technische Universität Berlin, Hardenbergstrasse 16-18, Berlin, 10623 Germany)

Birgit Blättel-Mink (Department of Social Sciences, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Grüneburgplatz 1, Frankfurt am Main, 60323 Germany)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 27 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Consumption and sustainability are complex issues—they cannot be reduced to the choice of consumer goods or to “green consumption.” Doing so would neglect the multifaceted embeddedness of consumer acts and the multidimensionality of sustainability. To understand patterns of consumption and move them toward sustainability means dealing with this double complexity. A coherent reference framework is therefore needed, to enable locating and correlating research questions, theories, and findings. Such a framework should provide a basis for interdisciplinary understanding, mutual acknowledgment, and collaborative knowledge creation. Therefore, it needs to be the result of an integrative approach; otherwise it would not allow a wide variety of disciplines to work with it. This article presents such a framework, developed in the course of an interdisciplinary process in a research program. In this process, the researchers of the focal topic asked four questions: 1) How can consumption be conceptualized? 2) How can consumption and sustainability be related? 3) How can sustainable consumption be assessed? and 4) How can changes to individual consumption be motivated? The article condenses the researchers’ overall answers to these questions into four complementary core statements capturing the key elements of the reference framework and concludes by sketching the framework’s benefits for future research.