Conference Agenda

RN05_07b: Sustainable consumption and consumer behaviour
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Margit Keller, University of Tartu
Location: BS.G.35
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road


Differences In Willingness To Change Consumption Patterns Between Consumer Groups When The Global Temperature Is Increasing

Torvald Tangelad

Oslo Metropolitan University/SIFO, Norway

Unsurprisingly, the IPCC report “Global Warming of 1.5 °C” (2019) concluded that there is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global level. Such fast change will depend on active participation from all society sectors. Accordingly, researchers, policymakers and the media has debated to what extent consumers are willing to change their consumption patterns in a more sustainable direction voluntarily. In Norway, previous research has demonstrated that consumer attitudes towards the potential solutions to reduce global warming has changed. The annual SIFO-survey has measured levels of technology optimism and consumer responsibility amongst Norwegian consumers, showing that technology optimism has increased while consumer responsibility has been decreasing for several years, before an increase over the past few years. Furthermore, there is a negative relationship between technology optimism and reported level of reduction in consumption of clothes, meat, energy, air and car travel. Between consumer responsibility and reduction there has been a positive relationship. This paper aims to investigate the differences in willingness to reduce consumption levels between consumer groups in Norway. It builds on results from the 2019 SIFO-survey (N=1196). Findings from this research have implications for the political regulation of consumption in Norway, and in particular to understand how measures can be targeted at different consumer groups. It also contributes to the debate on sustainable transition pathways and limits to growth.

Saving The World With Meat Alternatives: Social Media Voices Between Material Change and Cultural Continuity

Malte B Rödl

University of Manchester, United Kingdom

The industrial production of animal meat is increasingly criticised in relation to environmental, ethical, and health-related issues, for which meat alternatives have emerged as a promising solution.

The complex relations between consumers and these sustainability-enhancing products is investigated here on the basis of user-generated content on social media. Taste testing videos from YouTube and vegetarian-related theme weeks on Twitter are used complementarily to analyse both depth and range of consumer attitudes. The analysis focused on the frames used to describe meat alternatives and the specific meanings they attribute to meat.

Three major frames emerge from the analysis, which describe (1) cultural continuity promoted through meat alternatives, with meat as a socio-cultural good; (2) material change as a solution to supply-chain issue in the food system, with meat as a consumable socio-technical entity; and (3) diversity of choice in the market place, with meat as a hedonic foodstuff.

While the rise of meat alternatives benefits the issues associated with meat, it is argued that their affirmation of established cultural norms keeps dominant ideas about meat consumption intact; it is suggested that this allows for the rise of 'protein diversity' and 'less but better' approaches, which instill a less radical rhetoric but therefore may counteract a quick transformation. Based on this, the tensions emerging between cultural continuity and change for sustainability are discussed, as recommendations for other food-related sustainability issues are made.

Transformative Practices and Socio-Cultural Change: The Case of Sustainable Food Consumption and Cultures

Atle Wehn Hegnes1, Virginie Amilien2

1Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, Norway; 2Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

Since the beginning of the 2000s the practice turn has evolved as a new approach in social theory and methodology. Within this paradigm practices are the fundamental unit of analysis and effort has been made to understand practices as ‘dependent variables’ and how they can be changed. Despite recent advances in practice theory, there are still important questions related to how practices connect and contribute to socio-cultural change. The interlinkages between change of practices and socio-cultural change are of increasing importance in the common goal to cope with the grand global challenges. In this paper we use sustainable food consumption as a case to describe and discuss the idea that the focus should be not only on the change of practices per se but also on how practices make or contribute to socio-cultural change. In this endeavour, we make a distinction between the ideal types of transformed and transformative practises and ask, how is, and should, socio-cultural change be accounted for in practice theory? Probing this question we use substantive examples from studies on food and food culture to develop a typology of practices based on their transformative potential. We suggest that the role of changes in translations of meaning, social reorganisations and material transformations is of particular importance. Our conclusion is that understanding socio-cultural change requires an analysis of the dynamics of how practices may enable and contribute to such changes. Future studies on social and cultural change in sustainable consumption should therefore focus on such transformative practices.

Exploration of the Sociological and Cognitive-Affective Factors, And Medias on Unsustainable Consumer Behaviour

Johanna Maksimainen, Terhi-Anna Wilska

University of Jyväskylä, Finland

There is a lot of research on sustainability and sustainable consumption, but current knowledge on the factors underlying unsustainable consumer behaviour has not yet been broadly explored. This paper presents an interdisciplinary project that aims to provide comprehensive understanding of the impacts of socio-cultural and individual (e.g. attitudes, emotions, personality) factors, and news media use and information contents driving unsustainable consumption. The approaches from sociology, cognitive science, and journalism/media studies are going to be applied in the research.

Our focus is on young males (18-25 years) with low education, as previous research reveals this group as the most unsustainable consumers. The research is divided into sub-studies: First survey data will be collected within conscripts in military service in order to cover the age group widely. The second phase includes the collection and analysis of visual and textual media contents. Media sources are going to be selected based on survey results. The final phase consists of intervention sessions including behavioural experiments. The objective is to spot cognitive biases regarding to climate change, sustainable consumption, and related issues. We explore the relations between the participants’ media reading skills, and the impacts of new information to one's conceptions. Here, the mechanism of apperception is in the center of focus. The studies utilizes qualitative (e.g. semiotics, discourse analysis, visual analysis) and quantitative (statistical) methods.

Exploring The Temporal Ordering, Sequencing And Synchronization Of British Residential Energy Demand

Máté Lőrincz

University of Reading, United Kingdom

Despite its ‘wordless’ and hidden characteristics, it within the everyday tasks, routines and rhythms that energy consumption takes place, from getting up every morning, having breakfast, going to work or school, having lunch, going home, having dinner, reading a book, surfing the internet, watching TV and probably doing similar things again and again. This presentation takes this background as a starting point to explore and to describe common patterns with regard to how individuals sequence their energy demanding activities —like eating, cooking, laundering—during course of the day. Our presentation will start with an overview of the existing research into the temporal characteristics of residential demand with particular focus on studies employing time-use data sets. This will be followed by our preliminary findings of the UK Time Use Survey 2014-2015 diaries that are used to provide insight into the sequencing of residential energy demanding activities. This analysis is based partly on existing studies (e.g. social sequence analysis methods) as well on new research conducted by the author (e.g. dissimilarity-based discrepancy analysis). Finally, we will discuss our preliminary findings (a) on the way certain energy demanding sequences of activities occur at a specific time of the day and (b) how these common energy demanding sequences of activities are distributed across social groups. We consider that our presentation will generate discussion around the temporal order and sequencing of energy demanding activities as well some ‘sociological critiques’ of the use of time-use diary methodology to understand energy consumption patterns.