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GSI Research Seminar Series - Ethical Consumption vs. Sustainable consumption

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The two are often considered to be synonymous. I suggest they are better understood as distinct phenomena. The importance of this distinction is in challenging the assumption that sustainable consumption can be achieved by scaling up ethical consumption: if everyone was an ethical consumer, consumption would be sustainable. Firstly, the role of the consumer in both ethical consumption and sustainable consumption needs to be problematised. Secondly, we need to acknowledge that ethical consumption tells us very little about the challenges of sustainable consumption. Lastly, we need a more appropriate way of understanding sustainable consumption – I suggest this is provided by a practice theoretical approach to consumption.

Dan recently became a Research Associate at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), University of Manchester. He completed a PhD in sociology at University of Manchester in 2013 on ‘Understanding the Commercial Field of Sustainability Communications’ and subsequently helped the Sustainable Practices Research Group with communications. Before his PhD, Dan worked as a copywriter, journalist and editor. He was Co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine (2008-2011), and is currently a director of the Ethical Consumer Research Association, the UK’s leading ‘citizen-consumer’ organisation. Dan’s research interests include: cultural economy and cultural intermediation; social ontology and theories of practice; sustainability communications and commercial communications more widely; and sustainable consumption as discourse and practice.

This talk is part of the Global Sustainability Institute Seminars & Events series.

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