Nordic policy brief

Improving Nordic policymaking by dispelling myths on sustainable consumption

image of Nordic policy brief

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.

English Icelandic, Danish, Swedish


Key Lessons on Knowledge Brokerage

One of the key barriers to efficient evidence-based sustainable consumption policymaking is the persistence of misconceptions, simplifications and generalisations about consumer behaviour: what we describe here as myths. One of the complexities is that all myths have some element of truth. Thus, the main issue is to find and present available evidence in an objective and balanced way. Another problem is that research on consumer behaviour is indeed complex and might be difficult to utilise in the policy realm, especially as the majority of decision-makers who devise policies for sustainable consumption have backgrounds in economics, engineering, law, or natural science, while those with background in behavioural science are underrepresented. As a result of this structural lock-in, evidence from behavioural sciences is insufficiently utilised.

English Danish, Swedish, Icelandic

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