It is widely recognised that addressing climate change will involve a significant shift in the way that people consume. Changing consumer behaviour is particularly problematic, especially in societies where the freedom of consumer choice is highly valued. To date, most initiatives to change behaviour have amounted to price incentives and penalties for the purchase of particular goods and services, or information campaigns. While some success is evident, the rate of change is not commensurate with the scale of the problem.
The critical question is two-fold: how do we provision societies in ways that reduce the environmental impact of consumption; and how do we encourage consumer behaviours such that demand for more sustainable lifestyles generate the conditions necessary to stimulate innovation in the production and distribution of less environmentally damaging products.
How individuals and groups consume involves a complex set of behaviours, some intentional and some habitual, which are constrained by economic resources, time, cultural knowledge, tastes, social networks, and infrastructural provision (roads, energy, etc.) Theme 1 sets out to identify the most robust research and policy initiatives relevant to shifting consumer behaviour towards more sustainable lifestyles (see the theme 1 flagship project for an example of how we are tackling such issues).