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Impact assessment and diffusion potentials of social innovations for sustainable consumption

Capitalist production and consumption patterns are largely responsible for exceeding the planetary boundaries. In Germany, too, the negative consequences of this overstepping are becoming visible through increasing levels of climate change, loss of biodiversity and natural environments. Consequently, there is a growing need for a socio-ecological transformation, as demonstrated, for example, by the Fridays for Future movement or high environmental awareness in our society.  

As a response to these challenges social innovations for sustainable consumption, that contribute to the sustainable transformation of consumption and production, are emerging from within the society. They offer solutions to social problems by stepping out of capitalistic structures to meet social and ecological needs. In the process, they facilitate the creation of new social relationships and collaborations. As such, they are new approaches to a sustainable economy with a high potential for change.

While concepts for social innovations for sustainable consumption are already well researched, there is a lack of empirical research specifically addressing their impacts and transformational potential. This is where the FoSinKo project comes in: In collaboration with the Institute for Futures Studies and Technology Assessment (IZT) we will develop a model describing the impacts of social innovations for sustainable consumption. Additionally, we will analyze the potential for a widespread market diffusion of social innovations in a representative panel study. The objective is to develop a monitoring concept that will enable long-term observation of the diffusion and impacts of social innovations for sustainable consumption in Germany.    

The two case studies selected for this project are online resale platforms and Community Supported Agriculture. They represent two very different types of social innovation, with different necessary preconditions, consumption behaviors, and impacts. The comparative analysis of both allows a preliminary assessment of additional types of social innovations for sustainable consumption.

The project combines an interdisciplinary spectrum of methods (including foresight, futures studies, technology assessment, life cycle assessment, social and consumer research). An additional focus will lie on theoretical and methodological knowledge transfer on impact assessment for social innovations through the participation of relevant stakeholders.

IÖW Project Team