Sustainability - A Systematic Literature Review

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Resource or Project Abstract

National and local policy makers have sought to encourage individuals to engage in a wide range of pro-environmental practices to address both discrete environmental problems and major global challenges such as climate change (Barr et al., 2011). This desktop research project explores ways to advance understanding of the values and motivations that influence sustainable consumption behaviour in Irish society. However, theoretically the field of behavioural management in sustainable consumption is much contested (Hall, 2013; Shove, 2014).

The modern industry discourse in sustainability is the idea of ?green growth? which is described as the paradox of the continuation of increased economic growth, at the same time as increasing sustainability (Hall, 2013). For policy makers they view the challenge as how to encourage and sustain appropriate levels of individual behavioural change to manage consumption in a changing environment (DEFRA, 2005; 2008). However, Hoffmann (2011) questions the ?green economy? and posits that large-scale de-carbonisation of the economy and society will only be achieved if current consumption patterns, methods and lifestyles are subject to change. Sustainable consumption therefore, contains underlying assumptions about an individual?s capacity to act or change consumption patterns. These assumptions relate to behaviour, values and governance. The state utilises a range of policy measures to achieve its policy goals which are based on its working assumptions regarding individual and collective behaviour (Hall, 2011). Both intrinsic and extrinsic values motivate behavioural change in individuals. Psychological theory has traditionally been more concerned with intrinsic motivation, in attempts to explain self-driven behaviour such as exploration and seeking challenges, where there are no obvious external reinforcements (Amabile et al., 1994). However, it is the extrinsic values, those that generally link an individual?s assessment of effort to some extrinsic end that have been promoted in managing consumption in society (Hall, 2013).

This study is unique both in the Irish and the international context, in moving beyond a simplistic approach that addresses discrete elements of human consumption behaviour and seeking to understand their embeddedness within the culture and institutions of wider society. This desktop research addresses this challenge through four discrete work packages designed to examine, interrogate and integrate the wider literature in the area of human consumption behaviour. These work packages include and build upon the phases of literature development in; (1) individual consumer engagement and consumption behaviour, including the attitude-behaviour gap and the consumption cycle; (2) the consumer-citizen and motivation; (3) collaborative consumption within a wider societal and governance framework, and finally, (4) recommendations and a framework based on a full analysis of the current state-of-the-art in the area of consumption behaviour and sustainability through the use of a systematic literature review methodology. Thus, this desktop research explores ways to gain a better and wider understanding of the values and motivations that influence sustainable consumption behaviour. This is a unique endeavour addressing:
? a major global societal challenge through improved understanding and co-operation across sectors, disciplines and themes for mutual benefit,
? current Government policy (Our Sustainable Future ? DECLG, 2012) which seeks to consider the appropriate mix of suitable policies and instruments in the context of encouraging behavioural change to advance sustainable consumption behaviour,
? the status and potential of policy approaches directed at addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) (OECD, 2015),
? the need for further inter-disciplinary research and capacity-building

The challenge of sustainable consumption is multifaceted as we struggle as a society to not only come up with solutions but to understand what the actual questions should be. This study presents the synthesis of a Systematic Literature Review coupled with a new understanding of the challenges of consumption policy, social structures and the boundary arrangements of governance. What emerges is a focus on the Institutional and Governance (Socio-technical) Approach. Addressing core interlocking pillars integral to the management of sustainable consumption: 27 Principles of Change are identified including key findings that:
Governments must:
i. Accept their responsibility for ensuring social and environmental equity to truly strive for sustainability in society
ii. Ensure greater transparency such that values, standards and their effectiveness are clearly demarcated
iii. Act together with institutions in drawing on existing structures and systems to effect change towards a more sustainable state
The economic system must:
i. Avoid the narrow understanding of prosperity and the risk of uneconomic growth
ii. Distinguish between ?growth? which is narrowly based and ?development? which is broader, multifaceted, more robust and enduring
iii. Recognise and incorporate the level of consumer liberty in a choice set
Consumers / Citizens must:
i. Understand and promote citizenship as a right not just an obligation
ii. Be encouraged and facilitated to engage, participate and trust
iii. Engage and demonstrate moral rational reasoning that defines belief systems.

Thus, this evidence based review proposes a new framework; the Governance and Sustainable Policy Development (GSPD) framework or ?Road Map? (Figure 4.4), to guide decision making and aid understanding of what motivates individuals and institutions within a wider neo-liberal societal system to manage their consumption from a more sustainable policy and governance perspective. Indeed, a startling revelation of this research is that the rhetoric which places the focus of responsibility for sustainable consumption at the door of the consumer is misplaced. This study suggests that governments and institutions are remiss in this emphasis and that a new model is required which recognises the responsibility of those empowered to govern in driving sustainability and which acknowledges their role in defining societal values.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Vivienne Byers
National College of Ireland

Dr. Alan Gilmer
Technological University Dublin

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att 1    Table_2.2_List_of_papers_selected.pdf   (0.18 Mb)
Att 2    Table_2.1_Search_terms_of_the_SLR.pdf   (0.09 Mb)
Att 3    Figure_4.4_GSPD_Road_Map.pdf   (0.23 Mb)
Att 4    EJSD_597-1185-1-SM_Feb2018.pdf   (0.42 Mb)
Att 5    Appendix_1_-_Inclusion_Criteria.pdf   (0.2 Mb)
Att 6    Appendix_2_-_Screening_Criteria.pdf   (0.13 Mb)
Att 7    Appendix_3_-_Articles_Reviewed.pdf   (0.35 Mb)

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Author(s)Byers, V. Gilmer, A.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationSustainability - A Systematic Literature Review
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier11f2ad60-337f-11e9-bb07-005056ae0019
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-05-18

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Byers, V. Gilmer, A.   "Sustainability - A Systematic Literature Review". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-05-18)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsSystematic Literature Review
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2016-SE-DS-15
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeSocio-Economics
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceNONE
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 7
Project Start Date Wednesday 1st February 2017 (01-02-2017)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Tuesday 1st January 2002 (01-01-2002)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Wednesday 2nd May 2018 (02-05-2018)
Published on SAFERMonday 18th February 2019 (18-02-2019)
Date of Last EditMonday 18th February 2019 at 15:33:26 (18-02-2019)
Datasets or Files Updated On Monday 18th February 2019 at 14:30:15 (18-02-2019)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
Ireland, EU and Western Society - literature based policy-society review and model development.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

In this section some supplementary information about this resource is outlined. Lineage information helps us to understand why this project was carried out, what policy or research requirements did it fulfil, etc. Lineage is important in understanding the rationale behind the carrying out of a project or the collection of a specific dataset etc. Links to web sites, applications, papers, etc are outlined to provide you with additional information or supplementary reading about the project or dataset

Lineage information about this project or dataset
(i) Need to address sustainability in socio-economic policy and the challenges of economic growth and consumption.

(ii) The datasets are the building blocks required to establish a state of understanding regarding the nexus of consumption and sustainability in Irish and European society.

(iii) This project is not a follow on from a previous project.

(iv) This project is a response to the national and European imperative to integrate sustainability into socio-economic development for the health and well-being of of all citizens.
Supplementary Information
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