From sufficiency to sustainable abundance: disspelling a myth

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The Paris Agreement sets the goal of a complete global phase-out of fossil fuel use by the end of the 21st century and an 80-95% reduction of carbon emissions in affluent countries by 2050. Obviously, efficiency gains alone cannot deliver the required reductions (Alfredsson et al. 2018), due to rebound effects (York, Adua, and Clark 2022) and the increasing pace of growth (Hickel 2020). It is suggested that efficiency improvements must be accompanied by demand-side innovations and, more specifically, by sufficiency-oriented efforts, i.e., “doing with less” - reducing the absolute amounts of resources and emissions associated with modern lifestyles (Wiedmann et al. 2020). Sufficiency encourages individuals and societies to make conscious choices about what they consume, focusing on quality rather than quantity and seeking fulfilment and well-being beyond material possessions. However, discourses about limits to consumption are often met with resistance from almost all stakeholders (Gumbert et al. 2022). Individuals associate sufficiency with “living in caves” (Mont et al. 2013). For businesses, sufficiency often challenges the entire business logic of growth and profit maximisation (Bocken and Short 2016). Policymakers are reluctant to engage with sufficiency for fear of losing their electorates, as sufficiency is often viewed as a too radical and contested idea. Thus, a paradox emerges: international agreements have finally agreed upon the need for a radical transformation of our economy, yet necessary measures for enabling radical transformations are seen as too radical. These views and narratives help maintain the growth-dependent economy that no longer fits within planetary boundaries and influence what our societies deem possible and desirable (T. Jackson 2006).

The question we explore in this contribution is: How can we dispel these dominant societal narratives that prevent us from considering sufficiency as a salient part of sustainability governance? How have policymakers and businesses operationalised and practised the contested notion of sufficiency?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jul
Event5th SCORAI, 21st ERSCP, and Wageningen University Conference: Transforming Consumption-Production Systems Toward Just and Sustainable Futures - Wageningen, Netherlands
Duration: 2023 Jul 52023 Jul 7


Conference5th SCORAI, 21st ERSCP, and Wageningen University Conference
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • sufficiency
  • policy
  • business
  • sustainable consumption
  • post-growth
  • degrowth


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