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Scaling sufficiency: Towards less material consumption
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9067-0056
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Various researchers have pointed out that avoiding further catastrophicconsequences related to the deteriorating ecological state of the planet,brought about by unsustainable production and consumption patterns,requires not only technological innovation and efficiency in productionprocesses, but also absolute reductions in energy and material use (i.e.,sufficiency). The rapid expansion of research on ideas such as sufficiency andpost-growth indicate an increasing realization that fundamental societalchange is needed if we are to avoid devastating environmental effects andsocial inequities.Using a theoretical perspective consisting of the literature on sustainableconsumption, sufficiency politics and policies, and scaling sustainabilityinitiatives, this thesis aims to contribute to our knowledge about socialecologicaltransformations from the perspective of sufficiency, specificallyaddressing (un)sustainable consumption. Sweden serves as the case with, onthe one hand, its strong civil society, policy and business promotion ofsustainable development and, on the other, high per-capita levels ofunsustainable consumption of resources.This thesis comprises four separate articles and a cover essay. Article oneexplores how environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) areframing different sufficiency activities—ranging from those that can beapplied within the current market arrangements to others that deal withsocial relations and non-commercial values beyond market exchange—as away to attract a wider audience. Article two analyses the individual motivesfor working less and the socio-ecological outcomes of Gothenburg City’s ‘rightto part-time’ policy. The third article contrasts the visions and discourses of‘community repair’ with the mainstream circular economy discourse byanalyzing the ENGO campaign ‘Fix the Stuff’ and the open Do-It-Yourselfrepair spaces ‘Fixotek’ in the City of Gothenburg. Article four explores howdifferent business forms impact upon the social and ecological sustainabilitydynamics of the changing Swedish second-hand clothing market.Sufficiency is an approach that remains peripheral in the public debates onhow to enable social and ecological sustainability. Nevertheless, the researchin this thesis provides concrete examples of how sufficiency practices can bescaled, not only through bottom-up and grassroots movements, but also viaiimore conventional actors, such as municipalities, established ENGOs andfirms (Papers I–IV). It therefore contributes to knowledge about howsufficiency can extend beyond an individual strategy towards low-impactlifestyles, and thus can involve various societal actors and amplificationprocesses, ranging across scaling out, scaling deep and scaling up. In addition,I illustrate how the scaling of sufficiency practices is also coupled withvarious challenges and tensions, which risk undermining some of the keyaspects of the sufficiency approach.Furthermore, through the lens of the sufficiency approach, this thesis alsoadvances the debate on sustainability transitions and circular economies(Papers III and IV). In particular, it draws attention to how the mainstreamcircular economy discourse has overlooked questions relating to the rolesand powers of citizen-consumers and corporations, as well as the control ofmaterials, skills and resources. Moreover, there are social-ecological issuesrelated to which market actors have access to used clothing, how thesematerials flow and how profits are eventually distributed that have yet toreceive much attention in the current circular economy debate. Together,these issues have important implications for who benefits from the transitionto a circular economy and in what ways.

Abstract [sv]

Flertalet forskare framhåller att om vi ska undvika ytterligare katastrofalakonsekvenser relaterade till miljöns tillstånd, orsakade av ohållbarakonsumtions- och produktionsmönster, så krävs inte bara innovationer ocheffektivare produktionsprocesser, utan även en minskning av energi-ochmaterialkonsumtion. Det finns ett framväxande forskningsfält kring begreppsom “tillräcklighet” och ”bortom ekonomisk tillväxt” där man pekar på attdjupgående samhälleliga förändringar behöver ske för att undvika de värstamiljörelaterade konsekvenserna och sociala ojämlikheter.

Med utgångspunkt i litteratur kring hållbar konsumtion, politik ochstyrmedel för tillräcklighet, samt hur hållbarhetsinitiativ kan få störregenomslag, eller ”skalas”, har denna avhandling som syfte att bidra till ökadkunskap om social och ekologisk omställning, med specifikt fokus på(o)hållbar konsumtion. Sverige utgör den geografiska kontexten med dess, åena sidan, starka engagemang i hållbar utveckling från civilsamhälle, företagoch offentlig sektor och, å andra sidan, ohållbara konsumtion av resurser percapita.

Avhandlingen består av fyra vetenskapliga artiklar och en kappa. Den förstaartikeln utforskar hur miljöorganisationer ”ramar in” olikatillräcklighetspraktiker – från de som utgör en del av den monetäramarknaden till de som fokuserar på sociala relationer och icke-kommersiellavärden bortom marknadstransaktioner – för att på så vis nå olikamålgrupper. I den andra artikeln analyseras de individuella motiven ochsocio-ekologiska effekterna av Göteborgs Stads ”rätt till deltid”-policy. Dentredje artikeln utforskar diskurserna kring olika former av cirkuläraekonomier genom att jämföra Naturskyddsförenings kampanj ”Fixa Grejen”och Göteborgs Stads öppna mötesplatser för göra-det- själv reparation, såkallade ”Fixotek”, med den dominerande cirkulär ekonomi diskursen. Denfjärde artikeln utforskar hur olika företagsformer påverkar sociala ochekologiska hållbarhetsdynamiker på den svenska andrahandsmarknaden förkläder.

Tillräcklighet är ett perspektiv som fortfarande sällan lyfts fram i denoffentliga debatten om hur social and ekologisk hållbarhet kan uppnås.Likväl, forskningen i denna avhandling visar på konkreta exempel på hurtillräcklighetspraktiker kan ”skalas” inte enbart genom gräsrotsrörelser, utanäven genom mer konventionella aktörer såsom kommuner, etablerademiljöorganisationer och företag (artiklar I-IV). Avhandlingen bidrar på så vistill kunskap om hur tillräcklighet kan gå bortom en individuell strategi förminskad materiell konsumtion till att omfatta olika typer av samhällsaktöreroch former för genomslag, beskrivet som ”skala ut”, ”skala djupt” och ”skalaupp”. Samtidigt pekar avhandlingen på de motsättningar och spänningar somuppkommer när tillräcklighetspraktiker skalas.

Genom ett tillräcklighetsperspektiv bidrar denna avhandling till debattenkring omställning och cirkulär ekonomi (artiklar III och IV). Specifikt så visaravhandlingen på hur den dominerande diskursen kring cirkulär ekonomi harförbisett frågor som rör maktrelationer mellan medborgare/konsumenteroch företag. Den visar också på sociala och ekologiska aspekter relaterat tillvilka aktörer som verkar på begagnatmarknaden, hur materialflödet ser ut,och hur vinsten så småningom fördelas. Sammanfattningsvis pekaravhandlingens resultat på kritiska frågor gällande vem som gynnas avomställningen till en cirkulär ekonomi och på vilket sätt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2022. , p. 115
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 2233
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-316650ISBN: 978-91-8040-312-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-316650DiVA, id: diva2:1690580
Public defence
2022-10-14, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH Campus, videolänk https://kth-se.zoom.us/j/62627894052, Stockholm, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Mistra Sustainable Consumption
Note

QC 20220907

Available from: 2022-09-07 Created: 2022-08-26 Last updated: 2022-09-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Framing sufficiency: Strategies of environmental non-governmental organisations towards reduced material consumption
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Framing sufficiency: Strategies of environmental non-governmental organisations towards reduced material consumption
2021 (English)In: Journal of Consumer Culture, ISSN 1469-5405, E-ISSN 1741-2900, p. 1-19Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The efficiency approach of moving towards sustainable consumption through mainly technological solutions, which dominates environmental policymaking, has overall failed to reduce the adverse environmental impacts caused by unsustainable consumption patterns. Increasingly, it is recognised that efficiency needs to be coupled with sufficiency, which aims to reduce absolute levels of consumption. While the public policy realm continues to be linked to the efficiency approach, environmental non-governmental organisations have an important role in promoting sufficiency-oriented lifestyles and culture. Through interviews, participant observations and a media review, we analysed campaign strategies applied by environmental non-governmental organisations to promote sufficiency in material goods through less use, increased care and maintenance of products. This article contributes with insights on how sufficiency activities could attract a broader target group, as well as the various challenges and contradictions resulting from this process. To explain these challenges and contradictions, this article creates a conceptual distinction between market- and non–market-based sufficiency activities. The distinction elucidates how environmental non-governmental organisations are promoting activities ranging from those that can be applied within the current market arrangements to those dealing with social relations and non-commercial values beyond market exchange in order to gain cultural resonance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SAGE Publications, 2021
Keywords
environmental non-governmental organisations, framing, Sufficiency, sustainable consumption, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-307090 (URN)10.1177/1469540521990857 (DOI)000628971700001 ()2-s2.0-85102338417 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Mistra Sustainable Consumption
Note

QC 20220111

Available from: 2022-01-11 Created: 2022-01-11 Last updated: 2022-08-26Bibliographically approved
2. Working less by choice: what are the benefits and hardships?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Working less by choice: what are the benefits and hardships?
2022 (English)In: Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, E-ISSN 1548-7733, Vol. 18, no 1, p. 81-96Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Working time reduction (WTR) is a policy that could improve quality of life while reducing environmental impacts. However, WTR coupled with a salary reduction may benefit only higher-income earners and increase social inequalities. Against this background, we analyze how the motivations for and the socioecological outcomes from working less vary across different socioeconomic groups. The analysis is based on a survey conducted among municipal employees under full-time contracts who utilized the City of Gothenburg’s “right to part-time” policy. We find that working less improved quality of life not only for higher-income groups but also for lower-income groups through gains in time affluence, energy, health, and time spent on strengthening social ties. However, three negative effects emerged. First, WTR lead to increased work intensification, particularly among higher-income earners. Second, concerns regarding making ends meet and future retirement income were particularly salient issues among lower-income earners. Finally, WTR to cope with unfavorable working conditions was a much more common motivation among manual workers with lower salaries. We conclude that WTR can be a viable option across a broader range of socioeconomic groups than previously assumed but that it is nevertheless important to consider the effects on social inequality when designing WTR policies. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Informa UK Limited, 2022
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-309111 (URN)10.1080/15487733.2021.2023292 (DOI)000891431400001 ()2-s2.0-85123414844 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental ResearchMistra Sustainable ConsumptionMistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Note

QC 20230109

Available from: 2022-02-21 Created: 2022-02-21 Last updated: 2023-01-09Bibliographically approved
3. Community repair in the circular economy: Fixing more than stuff
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Community repair in the circular economy: Fixing more than stuff
2022 (English)In: Local Environment: the International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, ISSN 1354-9839, E-ISSN 1469-6711, p. 1-17Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the circular economy discourse it is stressed that products ought to be repairable and that repair work is assumed to be growing. However, repair can be organised and performed in different ways – by corporate entities, independent repairers, laypersons and communities. Some corporations are integrating repair and maintenance into their offering, while simultaneously restricting consumers to open, repair or modify their products. In opposition to such developments, there is a movement for “right to repair”, which works for consumers’ legal rights to repair and modify products, pushing for the free availability of spare parts and manuals. Recent years have also seen a growth of repair cafés and other forms of DIY community repair spaces. This paper explores the discourses of DIY community repair through two Swedish case studies – an NGO-led nationwide repair campaign and a local government initiative of open DIY repair spaces. Our case studies show how DIY community repair works towards enabling all, particularly marginalised groups, to participate and live well in a low-impact future. In contrast to the mainstream circular economy discourse, the purpose of community repair is not only about repairing broken stuff and reducing waste, but about building social relations and practicing non-consumerist forms of citizenship. By elucidating these different perspectives on repair – who is to perform it, with what skills and for what purposes – we highlight how the transition to future, more circular economies, can be enacted and steered in ways that allow for different roles and powers for citizen-consumers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2022
Keywords
community repair, right-to-repair, circular economy, do-it-yourself, power
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified Other Environmental Engineering Environmental Management
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-312439 (URN)10.1080/13549839.2022.2041580 (DOI)000762209200001 ()2-s2.0-85125944353 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Mistra Sustainable Consumption
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Mistra Sustainable ConsumptionMistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental ResearchMistra Sustainable Consumption
Note

QC 20220523

Available from: 2022-05-18 Created: 2022-05-18 Last updated: 2022-08-26Bibliographically approved
4. A sustainable second-hand clothing market?: Exploring the role of business forms and profit
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A sustainable second-hand clothing market?: Exploring the role of business forms and profit
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Second-hand consumption of clothing can support the transition to circular economies by prolonging the lifespan of products through reuse. Historically, not-for-profit businesses have been dominant actors in second-hand markets across Western Europe and North America. However, with the growing interest in second-hand consumption, for-profit firms have increasingly entered this market over the last decade. Through a qualitative case comparison, consisting of three not-for-profit businesses and three for-profit businesses operating in the Swedish second-hand clothing market, we explore how different business forms influence the social and ecological sustainability dynamics of this market. This study concludes that while a growing second-hand clothing market may support the transition to a future circular economy, there are social and ecological issues related to which market actors have access to the used clothes, how these materials flow, and how profits are eventually distributed. Therefore, we argue that particular attention should not only be paid to the material flows but also the legal structures and financial flows of firms present in circular markets. These aspects can in turn improve our understanding of who benefits from the transition to a circular economy, and under which conditions this transition can be made more socially just and environmentally sustainable.

Keywords
Second-hand clothing, circular economy, growing markets, not-for-profit business, social-ecological sustainability
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-316547 (URN)
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Note

QC 20220823

Available from: 2022-08-22 Created: 2022-08-22 Last updated: 2022-08-30Bibliographically approved

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