Improving Nordic policymaking by dispelling myths on sustainable consumption

image of Improving Nordic policymaking by dispelling myths on sustainable consumption

As Nordic countries have an ambition to be sustainability leaders, enabling sustainable consumption and lifestyles with efficient policies is an important part of reaching this goal. Research demonstrates that evidence from behavioural and social science is not routinely incorporated into policy design. Consequently, some persistent misconceptions – myths – about consumer behaviour have perpetuated in the mainstream discourse, especially in policy circles. The goal of this study is to dispel myths that thwart sustainability by bringing forward existing evidence on consumer behaviour to aid the development of efficient policies in Nordic countries. A meta-analysis of the existing international research on consumer behaviour from psychology, sociology, behavioural economics, policy and anthropology was conducted. The results demonstrate that it is unrealistic to expect a sustainable society to materialise from current political strate gies. The changes needed are significant, and this study shows that policy makers need to create the ”politics of possibility”towards sustainability by using the plethora of existing and innovative strategies and tools synergistically.

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Barriers to implementation: culture, infrastructure and policy

There is a strong belief in our society that having more money and owning more things brings us more happiness and well-being. Alternatives to this, such as sharing resources instead of owning them, or simplifying our lifestyles by choosing to have less money but more free time, are therefore seen as a sacrifice. Marketing wisdom tells us that “you can’t sell sacrifice”– and so policy makers fear alienating citizens with policies that tackle consumption patterns and levels. However, community level sustainability initiatives and alternative movements offer inspiration for redefining the “good life” to include well-being, community engagement, fairness, equity and sustainability.

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