The Ecological Economics of Consumption
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The Ecological Economics of Consumption

Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and Inge Røpke

Research on consumption from an environmental perspective has exploded since the late 1990s. This important new volume cuts across disciplines to present the latest research in the field.
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Chapter 9: Sustainable consumption as a consumer policy issue

Lucia A. Reisch


Lucia A. Reisch 9.1 INTRODUCTION For the first time since consumer policy had emerged as a distinctive policy field in the 1960s in Europe, a normative notion, which goes far beyond direct individual consumer benefits, has been put at the core of a national consumer policy strategy, namely: sustainable consumption and production. To date, sustainable consumption and production have been perceived exclusively as environmental and development policy issues, not as consumer policy issues. The fact that, in Germany, the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection has now decided to actively promote and support sustainable patterns of consumption has two consequences. Firstly, an increased political attention and public visibility of the issue of sustainable consumption; secondly, a broadened perspective of the subject, since ‘the consumer’ (however he or she is defined) on micro-level and private consumption on macro-level are explicitly added to the picture, complementing the dominating view of businesses and the state as primarily responsible actors. This chapter is built on the hypothesis that, with a consumer policy ministry taking the lead in the sustainable consumption debate, an opportunity for a more holistic and more effective approach to promote sustainable consumption has opened up. Since the conceptual thinking together of ‘sustainable development’ and traditional consumer policy in a concept of ‘consumer policy for sustainability’ is relatively new – both in academia and in politics – the chapter starts out with an overview on the scope and scale of consumer policy. In a second section, the process and results of a reorientation...

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