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A Map Is Not a Territory—Making Research More Helpful for Sustainable Consumption Policy

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  • Eva Heiskanen

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  • Oksana Mont
  • Kate Power

Abstract

The need to make consumption patterns more sustainable is widely acknowledged, yet effective policies for sustainable consumption are lacking. This article examines Nordic policy makers' views on why sustainable consumption research is difficult to apply in policy practice. We draw on the knowledge brokering literature to outline how the challenges of knowledge utilization in policy are connected to knowledge communication practices and to the types and scales of policy problems. Our empirical material is based on in-depth interviews with Nordic civil servants working with sustainable consumption issues. Our findings identify problems in sustainable consumption policy that are well documented in other fields, such as policy makers' lack of time and the inconclusiveness of research findings. However, we also identify more fundamental problems, which relate to administrative fragmentation and to the status of social science in policy making, as well as to the linear model of knowledge use in policy making in which administrators are forced to serve as knowledge brokers between researchers and policy makers. Our research suggests that better forms of knowledge dissemination are not sufficient to overcome these problems. New forms of knowledge co-production are needed, in which researchers, administrators, politicians, and other stakeholders work together to solve real-life problems and build up a shared knowledge community. We conclude by highlighting the implications for researchers aiming to promote change toward more sustainable consumption patterns. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Eva Heiskanen & Oksana Mont & Kate Power, 2014. "A Map Is Not a Territory—Making Research More Helpful for Sustainable Consumption Policy," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 27-44, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jcopol:v:37:y:2014:i:1:p:27-44
    DOI: 10.1007/s10603-013-9247-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jessica Pape & Henrike Rau & Frances Fahy & Anna Davies, 2011. "Developing Policies and Instruments for Sustainable Household Consumption: Irish Experiences and Futures," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 25-42, March.
    2. Doris Fuchs & Sylvia Lorek, 2005. "Sustainable Consumption Governance: A History of Promises and Failures," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 261-288, September.
    3. Franziska Wolff & Norma Schönherr, 2011. "The Impact Evaluation of Sustainable Consumption Policy Instruments," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 43-66, March.
    4. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    5. Eliasson, Jonas & Jonsson, Lina, 2011. "The unexpected "yes": Explanatory factors behind the positive attitudes to congestion charges in Stockholm," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 636-647, August.
    6. John Thøgersen & Ulf Schrader, 2012. "From Knowledge to Action—New Paths Towards Sustainable Consumption," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 1-5, March.
    7. Annukka Berg, 2011. "Not Roadmaps but Toolboxes: Analysing Pioneering National Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 9-23, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:jcopol:v:40:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10603-017-9356-x is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:kap:jcopol:v:41:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10603-017-9363-y is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Mari Niva & Johanna Mäkelä & Nina Kahma & Unni Kjærnes, 2014. "Eating Sustainably? Practices and Background Factors of Ecological Food Consumption in Four Nordic Countries," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 465-484, December.

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