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Business, Value Chains and Consumption


Our way of doing business is leading to social and environmental problems that require fundamental changes. For economic activity to become more sustainable, all actors along value chains must engage and cooperate with each other. Companies shape products, markets and business models and therefore have a key role to play. But individuals also influence whether and how socio-ecological transformation succeeds through consumption patterns and lifestyles. Through regulation and promotion, political actors play a role in whether this transformation is facilitated or hindered. Pioneers at all levels are developing new solutions that can promote the necessary sustainability transformations in business and society.

In the research field, "Business, Value Chains and Consumption," at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research, we investigate which strategies can be used to advance a sustainability transformation. We focus our attention on the actors and their conditions of action. Guiding questions of our research are: What are the transformation potentials of new business models, of production and consumption patterns and of lifestyles? How can these contribute to more far-reaching changes? In our search for answers, we not only look at market and contractual relationships, but also try to understand companies and consumers in their political, socio-cultural and natural contexts. We critically evaluate the opportunities and risks of possible strategies for sustainable economic activity from a consistent sustainability perspective. Our research is oriented towards normative guiding principles for sustainable economic activity, which in particular take up the ideas of a precautionary and socially-just economy within planetary boundaries.

With the claim of doing research relevant to society, we work on these topics in application-oriented projects – often in cooperation with practice partners – and intensively exchange ideas with companies, associations, civil society organizations and politics. We develop, test and evaluate innovative methods and instruments for sustainability management, strategies for promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns and practical concepts for sustainable value chains. Our consistent actor-orientation is expressed both in the research content and in the respective research design. We employ a broad spectrum of methods – from qualitative and quantitative empirical social research, such as guided interviews, focus groups, case studies and representative surveys, to innovative transdisciplinary methods such as living labs, field experiments and design thinking. Besides academia, our research is particularly aimed at stakeholders from business, civil society and politics. In addition to scientific publications, we disseminate our results in a range of practice-oriented formats such as dialogue events, action guidelines and policy recommendations.

Our team includes scholars from economics, management, psychology, sociology, political science, engineering, geography and environmental science. Thus, the research field fulfills an important prerequisite to be able to deal with economic and social science questions at the interfaces of human-environment-society in their complexity in an interdisciplinary way.

The work of our research field deals with five focal topics:

  • Sustainability management and corporate social responsibility
  • Sustainable consumption and lifestyles
  • Value chains and circular economy
  • Alternative economies and social entrepreneurship
  • Companies and consumers in the context of climate change



Dr. Christian Lautermann

Head of the research field Business, Value Chains and Consumption
Phone: +49 30-884 594-31

Jonas Pentzien

Head of the research field Business, Value Chains and Consumption
Phone: +49 30-884 594-15