The role of values and public perceptions in policy making for Sustainable Consumption

Kate Power, Oksana Mont

Research output: Book/ReportReportResearch


Summary of key messages for policy makers

• Systemic approach is critical Climate change and natural resource depletion continues to be driven not least by unsustainable levels and patterns of consumption. There is growing recognition that the shift required to achieve sustainable consumption and production is a momentous paradigm shift in Western culture. Due to the holistic nature of shifting cultural values, policy makers need to take a systemic and comprehensive approach to working with cultural dynamics. This requires a comprehensive strategy within which a variety of approaches to engaging with citizen’s consumptive behaviours can be applied.
• Policy makers in shaping public opinion Values are fairly stable, but do change over time and sometimes surprisingly quickly. Policy makers continuously influence cultural values and their leadership potential in shaping public opinion, even on controversial issues, is backed up historically. Using their inevitable influence with greater awareness and transparency could significantly enhance the potential for positive systemic change. Indeed, it is probable that without their leadership, the necessary changes won’t occur.
• A bold positive vision of a sustainable society A vision of a sustainable society that is based on we-centred values is potentially very appealing, as it could be based on values that are already important to people, such as developing relationships with family, friends and community, self-development, trust, personal and societal health and well-being.
• Importance of framing policy messages Awareness of how policies and communications are ‘framed’, i.e. what language is used and how messages are put into context, is necessary to ensure one is communicating the appropriate message and underlying values. This is also important in order to secure synergistic effects of individual policy instruments to promote systemic change to enable sustainability.
• The role of social marketing in changing values Social marketing is a useful potential tool for activating and strengthening we-centred values – affiliation, self-acceptance and community. Care is needed to avoid the familiar practice of ‘selling’ sustainability using the dominant consumerist, I-centred values - financial success, conformity, status from material possessions - that hinder the achievement of sustainable consumption in the longer run.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
VolumeETC/SCP 2011, task 4.2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

VolumeETC/SCP 2011, task 4.2

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • sustainable consumption
  • social norms
  • values
  • social marketing


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