Heidbrink Argues for the Key Role of Consumers for Sustainable Consumption to Achieve SDGs
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations are considered to be “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” (UN, 2019). Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns belongs to one of these 17 SDGs. Among others, it is about how to increase efficiency in resource and energy use in production and consumption for a better and sustainable life for all. In his recent contribution to a public debate on sustainable consumption, Prof. Dr. Ludger Heidbrink (KCG and Kiel University) argues that consumers play a highly important role in this regard.
Heidbrink emphasizes that consumers, companies and governments need to take joint responsibility in achieving sustainable consumption. More national and/or global rules and standards to promote sustainable consumption and stricter regulation to better control, for example, greenhouse emissions of production might not be really effective, if companies and consumers are not motivated to carry out sustainable production processes and to consume in a more sustainable way, respectively. At the same time, it would not be sufficient to encourage companies to bring more and more green products to the market over time either, if consumers are not largely ready to buy these products.
Consumers need more support as well to live and consume more sustainably. Based on the findings of recent consumer research, Heidbrink gives some examples how consumers can be supported in achieving their sustainability goals: Labels would work better to encourage sustainable consumption if they can be developed in a simple and trustworthy way. Price premiums may receive higher acceptance if the ecological added value of the products is directly recognisable. He underlines that supporting consumers in favour of sustainable consumption turns also to be a core aspect of the consumer policy and consumer protection nowadays.
Last but not least, he emphasizes that encouraging consumers to take their responsibility in sustainable consumption does not mean that companies and governments would be relieved from doing so. Instead, all three parties need to work together to better ensure the achievement of sustainable consumption and thus also the realisation of the SDGs.
The abovementioned article (in German) “Heidbrink, L. (2019), Wir brauchen mehr nachhaltige Konsument/-innen!, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (bpb), Dialog, Die Netzdebatte über Nachhaltiger Konsum” is available here.