Impacts of Consumption and the Role of Business

Nancy Bocken*, Laura Niessen, A. Tukker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

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Dominant unsustainable consumption patterns in developed countries have led to increasing climate and biodiversity issues. Through consumption-based accounting, at least 70% of the environmental footprint (carbon emissions, blue water extraction, resource use, and land use) can be attributed to food, housing, the use of appliances, and transport. Total consumption of dominant consumer goods such as clothing and electronics is only on the rise, also leading to increasing levels of waste. Given these adverse trends, and the key role of business in society, this chapter focuses on a potential positive role by business and investigates the following question: Can business have a positive role in supporting or even driving sustainable consumption, and if so, how? First, a Business for Sufficiency framework is introduced – based on the top strategies in the waste hierarchy and the four “lessens” – to map possible business-driven strategies. Second, this framework is applied to the sectors of food, housing, appliances, and transport. Based on this analysis, it was found that business indeed has a plethora of options, including green alternatives, service-driven business models, platforms, and strategies to moderate consumption. However, green alternatives were most prevalent. While some businesses also operate in the refuse (do not overconsume) option, it is likely that new policies are needed to drive sustainable consumption. The EU Circular Economy Package is an important lever for policy change, but a specific focus on sufficiency may help guide even more stringent policies to curb unsustainable consumption patterns that are detrimental to the environment and ultimately society itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Global Sustainability
EditorsR. Brinkmann
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-38948-2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Consumption
  • Sustainable consumption
  • Sufficiency
  • Business for sufficiency
  • Food
  • Mobility
  • Clothing


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