Constructing Sustainable Consumption: From Ethical Values to the Cultural Transformation of Unsustainable Markets

  • Holt D
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Abstract

Twenty years of major policy and activist interventions that seek to promote sustainable consumption have been guided by what I term the ethical values paradigm, despite that this paradigm has significant conceptual flaws and has not produced impressive results. This article critiques the ethical values paradigm and proposes an alternative by adapting the market con structionist paradigm. The author analyzes the devel opment of the American market for bottled water and demonstrates that this unsustainable consumption is an unintended consequence of the construction of a consumption ideology that is specific to the bottled water market, what the author terms ideological lock- in. This model explains why activist interventions have not worked and points the way toward more effective strategies. The author argues that we should reallocate the vast government, NGO, and foundation sustainabil ity investments from promoting consumer value trans formations toward a federation of market-focused social movements aimed at leapfrogging the ideological lock-in in key unsustainable markets.

Author-supplied keywords

  • bottled water
  • market construction
  • social movements
  • sustainable consumption

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Authors

  • Douglas B. Holt

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