Panel 2: Consumption and (ecological) sustainability

As defined by the much-quoted Brundtland report, sustainable development refers to development that enables present and future generations to fulfil their needs (WCED 1987). Sustainable development is the response to a complex tension between changing needs of a growing world population, on the one hand, and limited natural resources as well as the environment's limited capacity to absorb negative impacts, on the other. Hence, sustainability is, at its core, ecological, but also involves social, economic and political aspects. Consumption serves the satisfaction of needs, and the question is, how this is compatible with ecological sustainability. Ecological sustainability in the narrow sense emphasises the preservation of natural systems' functioning as a precondition for human existence – also in the future. So, consumption is considered ecological, when it contributes to decreasing environmental problems (climate change etc.) or when it impedes their further growth while, at the same time, assuring need satisfaction. In all this, not only ecological motives play a role, but also health-related, social and financial motives, so that sustainable consumption may be of either conscious or unconscious, either intended or unintended nature. Even with ecologically sustainable consumption, the symbolic or demonstrative function of consumption comes into play. So, in a way, the most environmentally friendly consumption is the kind that does not occur. This is exactly why ecologically sustainable consumption is difficult to grasp. The goal of the panel is to discuss the conception and the possibility of empirical capture with respect to ecologically sustainable consumption. 



Dr. Antonietta Di Giulio/ Rico Defila (University of Basel): Needs and consumption: Theoretical framework and research results with respect to the social arrangements of sustainable consumption

Dr. Ortrud Leßmann (Helmut-Schmidt-University, Hamburg)/ Torsten Masson (Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research): Sustainable consumption: An empirical analysis based on the capability approach

Prof. Dr. Ingo Balderjahn (University of Potsdam): Types of sustainable consumption styles: Identification, backgrounds and structures



WCED (1987): Our Common Future. World Commission on Environment and Development. New York (Oxford University Press).

Slides (German)
Leßmann, Ortrud/ Masson, Torsten: Nachhaltiger Konsum: eine empirische Analyse auf der Grundlage des Capability Ansatzes PDF